A top-heavy house by HHF hides a secret

House H by HHF Architects. Photos Michael Christian Peters

STARNBERG – The archetypal shape of House H is inconspicuous and unassuming against its backdrop, as it stands quietly isolated within a picturesque landscape that overlooks the city of Starnberg in the south of Germany. At first glance, there is something undoubtedly ordinary-looking about the project by Basel-based HHF Architects.

Taking the form of a generic two-storey house, House H resembles a previous project by the studio – House D (2013), featured in Mark #41. Similarly, the younger (and larger) counterpart hides more than it lets on, with a basement hidden under the sloped topography of the site creating a third level to the property.

Designed in collaboration with local firm Jacob & Spreng, House H’s top-heavy design visually capitalises on the success of its predecessor. The ground floor is wrapped in a glass curtain wall – interspersed with reflective sheets of chrome-plated steel – creating an ethereal lightness that makes the overhanging weight of the timber-clad volume above it seem like it is floating.

The recessed, patchwork of glazing provides the means for substantial daylighting to enter the interior, making it feel open and airy, despite its hard materiality. The raw palette – primarily of concrete and timber – promotes a sophisticated quality and focuses attention on bespoke detailing over unnecessary extravagance.

Rather than adopting a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, the project benefits from three species of timber, each one chosen based on characteristics that make it the most fit for purpose: elm for the kitchen surfaces; silver fir for the interior wall cladding; and rough-cut larch for the façade.

Plan – Level -1

Plan – Level 0

Plan – Level 1

Cross Sections


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