Andreas Fuhrimann and Gabrielle Hächler’s latest residential project, a holiday house in the tiny Swiss village of Vnà in Lower Engadine, had to slip into an unspoilt, if fast-disappearing, rural setting – all ‘haystacks and donkeys’, according to the architects. Faced with the challenge of making their modern aesthetic work in this ancient settlement, AFGH chose to focus on the massing of the new structure, referencing the hefty buttressed walls of the surrounding stone farmhouses.
Substituting concrete for stone was the first step, with monumental faceted walls and deep-set windows evoking the local vernacular and creating a façade that shifts as light and shadow plays across the angular forms. The heavy wooden front door with its pattern of perforated holes is also a nod to local agricultural style. The new house is the same size and basic shape as its near neighbours, yet the larger window openings, pared down detailing and dynamic angles give the three-storey dwelling a clearly modern feel.
The concrete finish continues inside, with plywood cladding used in the living room and bedroom walls and ceilings to evoke a certain mountain cabin cosiness. The interior surfaces twist and turn to create a series of flowing spaces, with three bedrooms on the first floor leading up to a large living area on the upper floor. A large built-in corner sofa and shelving are arranged around a monumental concrete fireplace, while the owners’ extensive collection of modern art and sculpture is scattered around the space, making the house a home, a gallery, and a place from which to admire the spectacular surroundings.