This Superhouse is located in a quiet, private bay on an undisclosed Mediterranean island, and is accessed down a long winding road that snakes down the mountainous landscape, or alternatively via the helipad for a quick transfer to the mainland. A walled entrance courtyard in local stone creates a definite sense of arrival – mirroring one’s presence in the sheltered, rocky bay whilst giving a view of the house against the open backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea.
The design concept is very simple: two L-shaped stone walls cradle the house; within these enclosing walls there are two distinct timber volumes containing separate functions. The first contains service elements such as kitchen, stores, and staff accommodation. The kitchen and dining area are separated by sliding screens that can sink into the floor to completely disappear and open up the two spaces, clad in hardwood timber. This enables a more open plan when the house is in “family mode”, but the kitchen can also be completely closed off when entertaining. The second volume contains a spa and gym.
Again, sliding screens are used to allow the volume to open up and really connect the internal spa and gym spaces to the external areas. There is a staircase leading up to the master suite above, allowing the clients to descend directly for morning exercise and a swim. The main facade to the living area uses minimally framed glazing that can be opened up completely, with the sliding windows being hidden within the adjacent service volumes. The column-free facade allows an unobstructed integration of internal and external environments.
A deep overhang above allows for solar shading to minimise overheating and reliance on artificial air-conditioning. In the centre of the main living area is a double-height space with a circular sunken seating area, in which there is a suspended fireplace, hung from the ceiling two storeys above. The upper storey reads as one long volume that spans between the two service elements below. Access is via an elegant floating staircase, leading to the master suite at one end of the house, and four junior suites at the other.
Between these two ends there is a large gallery, home to the clients’ contemporary art collection of large canvases and substantial sculptures. The owner’s office is also located on the first floor, and this is the only space where we have denied a view of the sea – a deliberate decision so as to separate work from pleasure, but also to protect the art collection from UV exposure. Externally, we have a 50m-infinity pool that stretches alongside the house between the beach and the open-plan living space. The pool tapers to a thin edge towards the beach, minimising the impact when seen from afar.
A large seating and eating area looks out to sea, but sits adjacent to the kitchen zone for ease of serving. Screens along this part of the facade open up to reveal a bar. Outside the spa area at the other end of the pool, is space for sunbathing and recreation. To differentiate the functions, the floor surface changes from stone to timber here, giving the feeling of a deck around the pool. Akin to the lazarette, or flush-decked tender store on a yacht, the timber floor lifts up in sections, to reveal storage for sunbeds, cushions and other pool-related equipment.
This provides storage where it is needed whilst minimising the need to carry these items from stores further away. A sunken circular seating area sits within the pool, providing a unique vantage point to enjoy the evening sun as it reflects across the sea and pool surface itself. A walkway across the pool leads down to another seating area on a deck slightly above the beach, designed for evening use to watch the sunset. This walkway continues into a long timber jetty reaching out into the bay, where there is space to moor a number of yachts.
By the entrance area there is a low, single-storey volume providing secure garage space for 8 cars, as well as service zones for plant and stores. Hidden from view is an access door, which leads to the beach to allow storage of dinghies and other marine equipment. A large basement underneath the house contains other functions that do not need an outlook or view. Underneath the kitchen service-element there is large wine cellar, and additional storage. A large home cinema and an indoor driving range sit beneath the main living space.
The house is designed to be completely off-grid. Our first principle is to insulate well, to eliminate any heating need during the winter months and reduce cooling needs in summer. This is achieved through a so-called ‘PassivHaus’ approach. The minimal heat loss, coupled with the heat created by inhabitants and their activities – such as showering and cooking – combines with the passive solar gain from the glazing, to provide all the necessary heating input to keep the house at a comfortable and steady temperature. During the winter months, heat recovery ventilation ensures a constant supply of tempered fresh air.
Foul drainage is dealt with through an on-site mini-sewage treatment plant. On the roof is an array of photovoltaic panels that provide all the electricity needed for the house. During the day, the solar panels charge up Tesla Powerwall Units. Several of these units are connected together to store energy to be used throughout the times when there is no sun. Even through the winter months and overcast days, the Powerwall is designed to provide sufficient energy to the house, and it is readily available on demand. The off-grid approach will ensure a small carbon footprint and extremely low running costs.
The house is built from in-situ cast concrete. This ensures that it is durable and can withstand its exposed location. For external walls, the concrete is mixed with a ground white marble aggregate, which is then polished to achieve the final finish. This gives an incredibly smooth and hardwearing surface that has a shimmer and sparkle to it; the smooth surface also self-cleans with rain. The ground floor walls are clad with local stone that will require no maintenance. Source by Strom Architects.