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Spiral House / Powerhouse Company

© Stephane Chalmeau

Architects: Powerhouse Company
Location: Burgundy, France
Partner in Charge: Charles Bessard
Client: Withheld
Contractor: Covre Charpente Sarl, Berthoud toiture, Ets Favérial, SA Gandin
Project Area: 200 sqm
Budget: 300.000 €
Project year: 2005–2008
Photographs: Stephane Chalmeau


“We want a house with a twist, a house that has something something to say.”

A house with a twist

When a young french family approached the Powerhouse Company to design a house-extension with a twist they had no idea that could result in a truly twisting house.

As opposed to the existing house, an old Burgundy farm, the new wing is dedicated to host their guest and visitors. With a large living room and a series of guest rooms the extension is not only an invitation into their home but also a picturesque experience of the surrounding landscape offered to their visitors. Set in the middle of a generous property of 13.000m2, crossed by a small river and planted of a wide variety of old ornamental trees, the Spiral House enjoys the sweet and pastoral charm of the landscape of Burgundy.

© Stephane Chalmeau

A loop into the landscape

Despite its traditional architecture the existing house was struggling to inhabit and occupy the share size of the park. By contrast the Spiral House expands freely in the garden seeking to create as many experiences of the garden as possible. In a gentle swing from the ground floor to the roof level it creates a surprising variety of spaces that blurs the boundaries between the house and the garden where the architecture and the landscape merge together.

ground floor plan

Wrapping the house around a planted patio the Spiral House reminds the “Clos”: the walls enclosing the famous vineyards of the region. In the Spiral House this “Clos” is transformed into an inviting gesture, the peripheral wall is transformed to create a spiral: a continuous invitation from outside to inside, a continuous movement from the entrance to the more intimate rooms of the house. The patio, the covered terrace and the panoramic views connect the house with the garden and invite the guests to unwind and enjoy the garden’s life.

More than a house, the Spiral House is a pleasurable and sheltered promenade in the landscape to its guests.

© Stephane Chalmeau

Open and intimate

With its abstract and sculptural volume the Spiral House escapes any pre-set style and dialogues spontaneously with the old house and the garden. Its geometry grew from the internal organisation of the house and the particular wishes of the client such as large and open rooms with high ceilings on the ground floor for the living room and the library, and smaller and intimate spaces for two guest suites. It also includes a multi-purpose dorm/playroom for the the kids and their friends.

Together with the existing house, the Spiral House describes a programmatic loop and additionally creates a patio in the centre of the house. All the rooms are distributed around this patio along gentle stairs that rises gradually from ground floor to first floor. Visitors enter the extension by the patio and are thus welcomed in the heart of the house.

© Stephane Chalmeau

The architecture of the Spiral House is focused on the distribution of openness and the intimacy of space. The fully glazed patio floods the house with sunlight and create a great openness without compromising its intimacy. The external façades are perforated with windows varying in size and proportions and framing selected views on the garden to create a particular atmosphere in each room. It is a continuous space of soft transitions from public to private. The rooms functions as a successions of mezzanines that can be closed or opened, providing the guest with a subtle feeling of participating in the life of the house.

Elegant and adaptable

Powerhouse Company’s design approach allowed the Spiral House to be build with a conventional budget for a mid range single family house. Priority is given to quality of the spaces, of light exposures and view rather than the expenses in materials. That means that a large part of the budget was invested in the structure to realize the complex geometry and achieve a surprising diversity of spaces with only 200m2 of floor area.

© Stephane Chalmeau

The clients specifically wished for a design that would permit them to supervise the entire construction of the house themselves. The Spiral House is built with a wooden structure, a system that creates a high degree of flexibility and adaptability. This made it relatively easy to adapt the complex geometry on site and further reduce the budget risks during the building phase.

In terms of materialization, the sculptural dimension of the volume is balanced with minimalist materials and details for the façade, giving it an elegant touch. The hidden window frames reduce the number of visible details on the façade. Additionally, the smooth plaster on the exterior walls contains subtle golden glitter-shine that playfully captures the light.


References (1)

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    Spiral House / Powerhouse Company - DesignToDesign Magazine - , The Ultimate Online design Magazine

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