Stuttgart, Germany

Principal Ben van Berkel calls it “the twist.” Two flights of stairs run diagonally across the square floor plan, crossing over each other in a single, fluid motion as they rise from the ground-floor entry to the living area and up to the gallery and master bedroom. The dynamic energy they impart sets the open living spaces into motion and directs visitors toward the cozy, glazed corners with views of ancient terraced vineyards to the north, or over the rooftops and trees to the south. Above the stairs, a curving skylight caps the sweeping space like the vortex at the center of a whirlpool.

The thrust of van Berkel's trajectory continues out to the facade and roof, both clad in custom aluminum panels, where curves distort every plane. The roof dips at the front of the house in a nod to the steep gables of neighboring houses. At the back, a side elevation curls up over the double-height glazing around the dining room, rising at an angle that mimics the slope of the adjacent vineyards. From the garden, the walls appear to rise in successive diagonal spans over another glass curtain, as if the entire house were a grand cantilevered stair. In fact, the concrete structure has only four points of continuous vertical support: the elevator shaft, pillars hidden in the kitchen, and two side walls.

The living spaces spill onto the grounds on all sides, and include two pools next to the window walls that throw shimmering reflections of light to the indoors. Van Berkel used a clay-based stucco with flecks of mica to surface the main interior walls. Washed-oak stair treads, a rough limestone fireplace, and matte limestone floors in the kitchen and dining area offer a tactile sense of rootedness and solidity. “The more you neutralize the material effects, the better the effects of spatial and conceptual organization can operate,” he says.

Against this pristine openness, an undercurrent of tension, in the form of closed, static rooms, offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the clients—a couple who commissioned the project to replace their existing house on the site. Most dramatically, a dark multiuse room, off the living area, serves as a herrenzimmer, or men's room (a German custom), dedicated to music, masculine conviviality, and the hunt. Here the husband keeps his baby grand piano, traditional leather furniture, and spectacular grouping of big-game trophies. The rippling waves of the architecture repeat in this intimate space like eddies of relief across the ceiling and walls, designed for optimum acoustics. The wine cellar, too, exudes a masculine aura with its archaic vaulted stone ceiling.

This is not to say that the rest of the house is “feminine,” or that the clients were divided about the programming and design—a point underscored in the luxurious master suite, with a sauna, sun deck, and combined dressing area and bath, which is neither boudoir nor men's club. According to van Berkel, these “territorial games” offered a welcome challenge: “We mustn't forget that the architect is essentially a territorial invader.”

With its square plan and white surfaces, the project brings to mind the classic white houses in the 1972 book Five Architects (including works by Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier), adding the concepts of fluidity and context to their formal investigations of line, plane, and curve. While the formal play of the “Five” creaks with the outmoded mechanics of manual drafting, the warped curves of UNStudio's project bring architectural form into pixelated space, where it can stretch, bend, and turn inside out.

David Cohn is a Madrid-based correspondent for RECORD.

Completion Date: November 2011

Gross Square Footage: 9,900 square feet

Total construction cost: undisclosed


Owner: undisclosed

Stadhouderskade 113
1073 AX Amsterdam
Tel: 00 31 (0)20 570 2040
Fax: 00 31 (0)20 570 2041

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Ben van Berkel, Caroline Bos, Astrid Piber with René Wysk, Kirsten Hollmann-Schröter and Cynthia Markhoff, Christian Bergmann, Jan Schellhoff, Iris Pastor, Rodrigo Cañizares, Albert Gnodde, Beatriz Zorzo Talavera, Shany Barath, Esteve Umbert Morits and Hannes Pfau

Architect of record: Ben van Berkel

Interior designer: UNStudio

Construction Management: G+O Architekten GmbH, Leinfelden-Echterdingen

Structural engineer: Bollinger und Grohmann GmbH, Frankfurt

Structural engineer on site: Kraft Baustatik, Biesigheim

Electrical: Aktive Partner Michael Blickle, Stuttgart

Heating/plumbing: Bauer & Ihle GmbH, Esslingen

Ventilation: Plangruppe Emhardt, Möglingen

Landscape:  Atelier Dreiseitl GmbH, Überlingen

Construction management landscape:  Bautechnologie Lietzke, Ludwigsburg

Lighting: ag licht GbR, Bonn

building physics: Zuckriegl Engineering GmbH, Schorndorf

Studio 26 Akustik- Entwicklungs- &     Produktberatung GmbH, Stuttgart

Building Biology:  BaubioenergGebäudeenergieberatung, Kempten

Photographer(s): Iwan Baan

CAD system: AutoCad, Rhincoerus



Structural system
Shell work:  Reinforced concrete walls and floor slabs, Spahr-Bau GmbH, Sachsenheim

Exterior cladding
Metal Panels: Powder-coated aluminium facade, Ebener GmbH Fassaden - Profiltechnik, Bad Marienberg

Metal/glass curtain wall: Glazing: Wagner Glas- und Metallbau GmbH, Albstadt (product: Skyframe/Wicona)

Concrete wall outside: Spahr-Bau GmbH, Sachsenheim

Precast formwork: Peri GmbH, Weissenhorn

Roof sealing, waterproofing: Heinrich Diezel GmbH, Tamm

Metal: Powder-coated aluminium roof, Ebener GmbH Fassaden - Profiltechnik, Bad Marienberg

Metal frame: Wagner Glas- und Metallbau GmbH, Albstadt (product: Skyframe/Wicona)

Glass: Glas Trösch (Product: Sanco Silverstar Combi, 70/35)

Skylights: Glas Trösch (Product: Sanco Silverstar Combi, 70/35)

Glass doors: Reli Glastechnologie, Eppingen-Rohrbach

Wood doors: Comtür Weimann GmbH, Heilbronn

Garage doors: Hans Sailer GmbH & Co.KG, Lauffen

Sliding doors: Comtür Weimann GmbH, Heilbronn

Special doors: acoustic doors: Comtür Weimann GmbH, Heilbronn

Locksmith: Schlosserei Kirchknopf, Oberriexingen

Pulls: FSB GmbH + Co KG, Brakel

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Soyez Stuckateur GmbH, Ilsfeld

Three-dimensional wooden ceiling: p&p GmbH, Fürth/Odenwald

Gypsum ceiling: Soyez Stuckateur GmbH, Ilsfeld

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Carpentry: Beck Holzbau GmbH
p&p GmbH, Fürth/Odenwald
Fleiner Innenausbau GmbH, Leonberg

dry constructions, wall finishes: clay rendering, paintwork: Axel Soyez GmbH, Maler + Lackierer, Ilsfeld

Three-dimensional wooden ceiling and walls: p&p GmbH, Fürth/Odenwald

Wall cladding multi-purpose room: design UNStudio, production Fleiner Innenausbau GmbH, Leonberg 

Backlit onyx shower: Kölner Marmorwerke GmbH, Köln

Soft furniture: Architare Barbara Benz Einrichten GmbH + Co. KG, Nagold Fleiner internationale Einrichtungen, Stuttgart

Kitchen appliances: Poggenpohl Forum GmbH, Stuttgart

Bathroom appliances: Viktoria & Albert

Fixtures and fittings: Vola, Dornbracht

Curtains track: Müllers Raumausstattung GmbH, Stuttgart (product: silent gliss)

Curtains: Fleiner Innenausbau GmbH, Leonberg

Wooden dining table: e+h Meyer, Stuttgart

Acrylic kitchen counter: design UNStudio, production p&p GmbH, Fürth/Odenwald; (material Rehau)

Natural stone fireplace surround: Kölner Marmorwerke GmbH, Köln

Fireplaces: Ofen Hermann, Marbach

Wooden staircase: Boxler Innenausbau & Bodendielen GMBH, Rammingen

Crystal lighting: Windfall GmbH, München

Interior ambient lighting: Entrance Lobby: XAL, Typ Vela Round

Downlights: RSL, Minimal Downlight 3010

Linear lighting:ceiling: Zumtobel, Slotlight2

Exterior: walls: Bega, Typ 2005

Stairs: Bega Typ 3281

Dimming System or other lighting controls:KNX

Elevators/Escalators: Kone GmbH, Ludwigsburg

bathroom appliances: Viktoria & Albert

fixtures and fittings: Vola, Dornbracht

Pool suppliers: WBT Schwimmbadtechnik GmbH, Heilbronn

Energy management or building automation system: KNX Standard

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Heating system: combined heat and power plant with waste heat recovery system

Indoor climate: use of natural materials like clay stucco finshings, permeable to water vapor, avoiding chemical evaporation protective barriers against electromagnetic pollution