Project DescriptionNestled in a dense pine forest in Barvikha; Russia, this site is situated within a secured estate in Moscow. Positioned along the river and small lake in close proximity to the health resort for the Russian politici, the Barvikha Sanatorium, it comes as no surprise that this estate became very sought after by many influential people in Russia.
The relatively flat site presents itself as a remote and private location shielded by a canopy of trees. The client requested a luxurious nine bedroom contemporary mansion of 4400 m²; with an emphasis placed on the design of the living and entertainment rooms. A half Olympic size indoor pool was also an important aspect in the design, with a kid's playroom cantilevering over it and provision made for jumping and diving from there.
The client's request for a contemporary home and interest in a semi circular floor plan were decisions that played a large part in influencing the design of this home, which to a large extent is a glass tree-house with steel elements as the structure.
Due to the climate, the client wanted to have as much south and east facing glass as possible to capture the sunlight during the short summers, and to maximize the views towards the forest.
Nico van der Meulen introduced semi circular forms into the plan while Werner van der Meulen creatively explored the concept of the Russian wedding band which comprises of three interlocking bands. The bands were designed to shelter, protect, wrap and contain the internal spaces, while concealing the entrance almost entirely. In doing this the bands also shield the villa from the cold Northern Arctic winds and reflect light into the dark northern parts of the house.
The extensive use of geo-thermal heating combined with triple glazing and extensive insulation of the building fabric reduces the energy consumption of the residence to a minimum.
Nico and Werner collectively aimed to challenge the conventional linear approach to contemporary buildings by introducing curves into both the façades and the spatial planning. Translating this concept into the design of an up-market residence is what inspired Werner to focus on the design of the bands primarily, after which the rest of the house's forms developed naturally and effortlessly.
The "wedding bands", separate yet connected, are at times seen to emerge from the ground. At other times they are found suspended in mid air if held in position by the coolness of the air itself.
These bands often connect and collide with the main structure, and in other instances they stand proud as if to guard and protect the house from a distance. Openings emerge from where the bands separate from each other to reveal points of entry and ventilation. The southern façade opens up and pays tribute to the expansiveness of the site where the curves continue down the walls seamlessly joining the roofs, floors and walls into one uninterrupted ribbon.
From every perspective no clues are revealed as to how the structure works, leaving you wondering how it is all held together. The strategically placed structural elements have been positioned within the circular bands or walls of glazing which conceal them.
The triple volume entrance hall frames a spiral staircase that connects all four storey's of this luxurious home. The basement, large enough to accommodate 8 cars, has a water feature integrated into the hall with views down onto it from all floors. This feature can also be heated by geothermal systems to heat the central part of the house in winter.
Open plan living rooms and entertainment areas merge seamlessly with the garden;even the landscaping follows the curves of the design. Various double volume spaces and have been strategically placed to ensure southern light reaches even the deepest parts of this house.
The children's rooms were designed as double volume spaces, with the actual bed sitting on a mezzanine looking down into the living/work space below. Every decision, whether insignificant or imperative, has been dealt with in a manner that reinforces the concept of this design, making it a true success in the field of architecture and design.
Structural challenges were used as platforms to explore new construction methods, all the while revealing the talent of this father and son team at Nico van der Meulen Architects.