KAMNIK (SI) - Dekleva Gregorič explore the area between the norm and the exceptional.
The Perovo district in Kamnik, a picturesque town just a 30-minute drive from Ljubljana, is known as 'Beverly Hills' thanks to its kitschy family palaces. But a new housing project designed by Dekleva Gregorič arhitekti offers a different kind of luxury. This luxury is about housing typologies that offer both privacy and a variety of scenarios for social interaction.
Dekleva Gregorič are not interested in spectacle, choosing instead to create architecture that has both social relevance and physical presence. They consequently took advantage of a rare opportunity to design a medium-size neighbourhood, proposing a housing scheme that amounts to a redefinition of its built surroundings, which consist of a heterogeneous scattering of free-standing villas.
The project occupies an exposed site on a grassy plateau with stunning views of Kamnik and the mountains of the Kamniško Savinjske Alps in the background. The brief for the invited competition was detailed, requiring not only a settlement of semi-detached houses with steeply pitched roofs, but also prescribing wooden fences and transparent car port roofing. However, the architects took these constraints as a creative challenge and designed a neighbourhood that successfully merges the density of an urban setting with living in the midst of nature.
One of their biggest achievements was convincing the client to relinquish one row of semi-detached houses and build single-family houses in their place. In this way the Perovo district – despite the rigid urban plan with two rows of houses flanked by the road with small gardens in the middle – offers a fairly diverse living environment, helping to ease the feeling of containment that often comes with densely built areas.
The architects – as with the majority of their projects, from the XXS house in Ljubljana to the Housing L project in Sežana – explore the area between the norm and the exceptional. They have tried to avoid the archetypical image of the semi-detached house of two dwellings under a shared roof. Here, the ground floor is designed as the base; two smaller volumes each with a steep pitched roof are positioned on top and oriented in opposite directions for the sake of privacy. As such, the volumes express the dual occupation of the building and introduce an element of the exceptional, an unexpected twist, to the normality of the neighbourhood.
Both the semi-detached houses – arranged in a row near the forest – as well as the single-family houses, positioned on the more exposed edge of the site, are built according to similar design schemes, employing rhythmic forms for the upper volumes. The extreme height of the pitched roofs, a clever caricature of the building regulations, has been used to the advantage of the inhabitants. With entresols on the top floor the architects modified the 'standard' domestic interior to allow for a greater diversity of use and programme. Furthermore, the architects were able to create terraces adjacent to the upper bedrooms, as the footprint of the upper volumes is smaller than that of the base.
The triangular upper volumes are emphasized with different facade treatments. In contrast to the grey plastered base, these volumes are clad with wooden battens, attached with filigree precision. A lot of attention was paid to the entrances, a space usually reduced to a mere opening for the door. This transition space between the outside world and the privacy of the home is designed as a semi-public area with details like built-in mailboxes and lighting, as well as outdoor storage space. Behind the dark entrance a bright living area opens up on the ground floor, with the more private spaces and bedrooms on top. The utility spaces in the single-family units can be transformed into a small apartment for an extended family. Here, a covered outdoor space is also provided.
In such a dense built environment, assuring some degree of privacy is of particular concern. Here the green area between the houses creates a garden-like setting with wooden terraces facing different directions in order to avoid being overlooked by neighbours while dining or simply relaxing outside. Yet the visually strong, cohesive image of this architecture contributes to the development of a common identity, to the feeling of belonging to a neighbourhood – to an unusual and engaging mixture of both proximity and distance.
June | 2011 | Slovenia | Maja Vardjan