Brandenburg Spezial
Countryside brutalism
By Florian Heilmeyer
Mar 4, 2015

The Scharmützelsee is not only Brandenburg’s second largest lake, referred to fondly by novelist Theodor Fontane as the “Sea in the Marches”, it is one of the most beautiful and most popular. In the early 20th century the lake was already closely linked to the metropolis 70 kilometers away – in neighboring Saarow with its thermal springs, spas and baths were established for burnt-out Berliners, boasting curative mineral mud, and it was not long before a railroad track was laid to facilitate the journey. The community along the lake’s shoreline swiftly grew and in 1923 was officially named “Bad Saarow”.

On a notable piece of land on the very edge of the community with a few skillful sleights of hand Augustin und Frank Architekten have transformed the typical appearance of a simple hipped-roof house into a striking building: The house stands on an especially steep part of the shore, about nine meters from the water. There’s only a neighbor to the left, on the right the pine forests of Brandenburg unfold. The house is thus slightly isolated and above all enjoys a stunning pano-rama view: In the distance, the water glitters and white sails glide by. Needless to say, the house’s owner is himself a keen sailor.

Originally, there was only a small prefab garage on the plot, which is far longer than it is wide, (130 x 24 meters), intended to house sailing gear; and there was a sweet little brick shed direct on the shore, which today houses the guest rooms. The new building provides 190 square meters of living quarters and thus plenty of space for longer stays. The developer wanted a solid structure, a reduced pro-tective skin in the midst of nature – and that’s exactly what Augustin und Frank came up with. Essentially, it’s an ur-house consisting of a compact volume and a hipped roof. It’s just that the volume is made entirely of corrugated reinforced concrete that forms an abstract corpus that seems to have been carved from a single block.

The powerful concrete volume has also been raised by one storey, and the ground floor is fully glazed on the longitudinal sides. In this way, the countryside seems to flow beneath the heavy volume through the large, open residential and cooking zone that are not interrupted by a single wall or pillar. It is the outer skin that bears the entire load. This sense of floating is emphasized by a small but decisive detail – the metal staircase that leads up to the floor above with the bedrooms and washrooms. The staircase does not touch the floor, but hangs down from the floor above, thus resembling a lowered gangplank.

To protect the panes of glass and the interior when the owners are away, auto-matic perforated sheet metal roller blinds can be lowered from the concrete vol-ume of the upper floor, turning the house into a metal-and-concrete bastion. In-side, the mood is very homely. On the ground floor, it is like being in a narrow house in the middle of nature, and depending on the season a large section of the glazing slide open. On the upper floor, the walls are clad in plywood, whereby all the rooms are aligned to the lake, and the view upward of the gables has been left open, creating a unique sense of space. Gazing at the yachts in the distance, you might be forgiven thinking you are standing in a wooden hull, turned upside down on land to dry. An association that the owners no doubt love.

The client wanted a massive house, a reduced shell in nature. The concrete surrounds the building like a clamp. Photo © Werner Hutmacher
Longitudinal section through the building – facing the lakeside. Drawing © Augustin + Frank Architects
Even the first floor is kept open. Behind the wooden walls you find plenty of space for clothing, books and other stuff. Photo © Werner Huthmacher
Raw concrete and a steel staircase shape the spacious ground floor. Photo © Werner Huthmacher
To save space, sliding doors (lakeside) were installed upstairs, separating the individual zones from each other. Photo © Werner Huthmacher
Bathing with a view over the lake - that's how you can enjoy the country life.
Photo © Werner Huthmacher
The building fits wonderful into the surrounding. Photo © Werner Hutmacher
On warm days, the ground floor is a part of the outer space - you just have to open the large sliding windows. Photo © Werner Hutmacher
From the side of the house you see the idea behind the deisgn, which relates to original home. Photo © Werner Huthmacher
Cross sections. Drawings © Augustin + Frank Architects
longitudinal section – facing the forrest. Drawing © Augustin + Frank Architects
Ground floor plan. Drawing © Augustin + Frank Architects
First floor plan. Drawing © Augustin + Frank Architects