mar.s architects' simple, open plan home in the local vernacular of the northern Krkonoše mountains subjugates itself to the dramatic snowscape, its verandah acting as a ‘bridge’ into the whiteout
The Krkonoše, or ‘Giant’ Mountains are located on Czechia’s northern edge with Poland, their natural ridges defining the political border between the two. Not just the source of the mighty Elbe, they are also home to Sněžka, Czechia’s highest peak; at over 1600m it’s 300m taller than Ben Nevis. Little wonder the area is a popular winter sports destination for both countries.
To this seasonally freezing, UN designated ‘Man and Biosphere’ landscape, Prague-based mar.s architects – Martin Šenberger and Václav Kastner – was asked by friends to design a contemporary home that echoed the forms of the local vernacular.
Looking out over the western ridge of a steep hillside, the house sits on a sturdy base plinth of local stone. It is clad in untreated vertical timber planks, with their seams protected by slim, white-painted battens in the traditional manner. Over time the planks’ colour will mellow to silver-grey, to contrast more with the battens, lending a novel expression to the facade.
Dark aluminium roofing contrasts with the lightness of the timber, but around the dormers it too changes in nature from east to west. Whereas there’s almost a child-like literality to the road-facing east side, with elevations simply punctured for doors and dormers, there’s more complexity to the west face. Here, dormer elevations rise out at the interface of a double hip roof and are finished in timber, giving greater presence to this principal elevation.
Here too, you’ll find a steel verandah on splayed legs, projecting over the landscape, maximising the ridge’s vertiginous effect. Its sense of sheer exposure is counterpointed by the timber vertical lathing that offers visual protection for the main living area of the home, where spaces flow one into the other, down to the basement wellness area or up to the bedrooms level.
This is a simple and relatively basic home that eschews internal luxury for the sheer drama of the mountain landscape that it sits in. For the architects, the verandah expresses this sense precisely: ‘During extreme weather, when the surroundings blur and visibility is minimal, it becomes a commanding bridge in the middle of nothingness.’