Summerhouse In Lagnö
By Jakob Harry Hybel
Tucked away in Lagnö in the middle of the Swedish archipelago, the recently completed summerhouse by Norwegian architects Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård is a restrained yet contrast-filled reinterpretation of the Swedish gabled boat houses.
For over 15 years, Tham & Videgård have been seeking to redefine traditional Swedish typologies by stripping them to their core, and that is exactly what they have done with their summerhouse in Lagnö. Although the archipelago used to be riddled with wooden boat houses, back when fishing was the region’s main industry, today many of the area’s original houses have been substituted with villas. However, while the summer house’s zig-zagging roof contour might seem immediately recognizable and intelligible when seen from a distance, a closer look reveals that the house is in fact something quite out of the ordinary: Instead of the traditional light wooden structure one associates with Swedish boat houses, this particular house has been cast in in situ concrete.
Striving for Simplicity
The summerhouse was commissioned by a family with children and can be seen as a brilliant exercise in restraint. The structure consists of three volumes: The two primary volumes, the main house and guest house, are connected by a rectangular terrace and separated by a gap – almost as if one of the five boat houses has been blown away and only the roof remained. It is through this glass-covered opening, you access the house, before walking through and down towards the water, where you’ll find the more reclusive sauna.
The house itself is small, only 100 m2, but very convincingly scaled. More elongated than the simple 1960’s sport cabin that stood on the site until a few years ago, and certainly more low-key than the large neighbouring houses with their outstretched verandas, the house was built around the turn of the century, when the wealthy Stockholmers began to spend their summers in the archipelago.
The house distinctly draws a dividing line between public and private. While the north facade facing the road, is completely closed off and reserved, the south facade facing the water, is wide open, embracing the landscape. The sliding glass doors of the south facade help to bring the nature inside whilst the reflection of the horizon merges with the polished concrete floor. Within the double-high living room, reflections play across the sliding teak doors and the tall, surrounding birch trees cast long shadows on the white-painted walls whilst the irregularly proportioned saddle roofs create intriguing niches and subdivisions.
An Extension of the Bedrock
The site, lined on all sides by groves of spruce, pine and birch trees, is wedged between an area with summer houses and the unspoiled archipelago. The grey color of the concrete works perfectly in relation to its surroundings here – at a quick glance, the house might as well have been an exposed piece of the granite bedrock on top of which it stands. Get up close and you will notice the impressive sense of detail in the cast work; particularly the way the concrete is skillfully cast so that the form marks align with and thus emphasize the building’s geometry.
Even though their gabled shape inspires familiar associations, the concrete volumes appear most of all like an abstract geometric composition, at one and at the same time very much at home on the site, but also seemingly demountable and changeable. Herein lies perhaps the greatest quality of the project. Rather than its easily decipherable form, it is the dualistic relation between its tectonics and its tactile materiality; its site-specificness and its autonomy that makes this project so alluring.
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