Floating on Air: Home’s Transparent First Floor Creates a Cool Illusion



dune house

From afar, the dramatic black silhouette of this modern residence looks like a mountain range that has lifted up off the grassy plains of Suffolk, England to hover in the sky. Its upper volumes appear entirely disconnected from the earth for an effect that’s the opposite of ‘grounded,’ seeming to magnetically levitate above the surface rather than taking shelter within its solidity. Whereas most homes seem to savor that rootedness, ‘Dune House’ evades it, but not at the cost of interior coziness.

dune housedune housedune house

Collaborating with Mole Architects Limited, Oslo-based JVA Architects set out to subvert the typical English seaside dwelling even while taking visual cues from it, contrasting traditional gabled rooflines with wall-to-wall glazing, a matte black finish and reflective roofing made of lightly tinted orange steel alloy to reflect the shifting colors of the sea and sky and sparkle in direct sunlight.

The architects sought a design that would fit in with the local architectural vernacular and customs while simultaneously presenting something brand new. The result achieves this goal with inflections of the firm’s Nordic roots, nestling within the dunes in a way that’s visually as light and airy as a cloud.

The pitch-black upper volumes clad in timber planks contain private spaces including four bedrooms, while the glassed-in concrete and aluminum lower floor opens the common spaces to the sunlight and beautiful panoramic views of the North Sea and adjacent meadows. Each room has its own private bathroom, including the master suite downstairs, and there’s also a small library and roof terrace.

dune house

Pale wood with a nautical Scandinavian feel adorns nearly every surface of each bedroom, while the lower floor is anchored by a central fireplace made of concrete, accented by a slatted timber ceiling inset with built-in lighting. The geometric shapes created within the interiors by the jagged roofline create a dynamic sense of movement, drawing the eye from the floor to the walls to the ceiling peaks.

dune housedune house

Setting the first level of the home halfway within the earth so the grassy dunes act as natural berms helps protect it from erosion as sand is shifted around by the wind. The home functions as a vacation rental as part of the Living Architecture series, which aims to change public perception of modern architecture through rentable houses created by world-class architects.

“To get a planning permission it was important to relate to the existing, typical, British seaside strip of houses,” say the architects. “The roofscape, the bedroom floor, somehow plays with the formal presence of these buildings, and also brings into mind a romantic remembrance of holidays at bed-and-breakfasts while traveling through the UK.”

dune house

dune house

“The ground floor contrasts this by its lack of relationship to the architecture of the top floor. The living area and the terraces are set into the dunes in order to protect it from the strong winds, and opens equally in all directions to allow for wide views. The corners can be opened by sliding doors; this will emphasize the floating appearance of the top floor.”

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