Hillside Studio Bregenz sloped house

Perched on a gently sloping hillside, this small artist’s studio bends in the middle to frame the sky on the backside rather than dead-ending in the earth. Architect Christian Tonko envisions the structure, which is located in Bregenz, Austria, as a ‘visual device’ that captures a very specific view of the surroundings for the occupants while also letting in direct sunlight from the southeast.

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Hillside Studio Bregenz glass
Hillside Studio Bregenz inside

“On an underlying conceptual level the design is inspired by an ancient optical device – the camera lucida,” says the firm. “On the one hand it is very literally a bright chamber – constructed to achieve good light conditions which can be modulated to desired levels. At the same time the studio itself acts as an optical framing device similar to the original function of the camera lucida as a drawing aid.”

The tilted glazing on the uppermost portion of the studio floods the interior with natural light, providing ideal conditions for the working artist in residence to create and display bronze sculptures. Exterior screens make it easy to adjust the amount of light and heat that comes in, blocking the sun if desired.

Hillside Studio Bregenz black staircase

Broken down to its most basic form, the studio is essentially a box with a skylight, creased down the middle so part of it matches the angle of the hill. Though the setting is pastoral, the studio is industrial in character, with a raw concrete interior and facade panels made of weathering steel.

Hillside Studio Bregenz view

“This small studio for drawing, painting and sculpture acts as a visual device itself by bidirectionally framing its surroundings. To the southeast a great amount of daylight enters through tilted glazing. To block direct sun if desired and to enable the modulation of light and climatic conditions exterior screens are deployed. To the northwest a system of frames is installed which enable bronze sculptures to be suspended in front of the glass and in direct sight of the working artist. In that spot the bronze sculptures receive their natural patina while being staged as a motive of reflection and confrontation for the artist.”

Hillside Studio Bregenz black

“The building features two separate levels which serve different functions. The upper level is designed to be a workplace where most of the sketches and small water colours are done while on the lower level medium sized canvases and small sculptures will be produced. The semi-industrial character of the project stems from the reference to the typology of the shed roof factory. Here this typology is being reduced to its simplest case – a single box with a single skylight. The use of raw and untreated materials contributes to the character of a workshop. The facade panels are made from weathering steel while the interior surfaces are made from raw concrete, raw steel and untreated oak. “