Konieczny’s Ark is an unusual, one-storey house built in Brenna near Cieszyn (southern Poland) on one of the steep slopes of the Beskid Mountains. It is made of concrete and heavily glazed. Its simplicity is contradicted by the innovative structure on which the building rests. Due to the steepness of the slope, designers from Konieczny’s KWK Promes design studio decided to treat the house like a bridge, allowing rainwater to flow harmlessly underneath.
“The house took the form of a typical barn supported by three thin walls, but because of its shape and the water flowing underneath, it resembles an ark” – Robert Konieczny
Created for the firm’s owner, Robert Konieczny, the home becomes vulnerable to landslides due to its slopeside location, which can be a frequent occurrence in this part of the Polish mountains. To safeguard the building, the architects created a design that ‘floats’ above ground, giving the Ark its abstract boat-like aesthetic, while allowing for water and mud to flow underneath freely, without damaging the property.
The faceted and expressive geometry of the house has meant no obstacle to following a simple and economical construction system: a concrete wall made by a local builder, which functions as structure and shell, and that is fit out with an inner layer of foam insulation and a vapor barrier.
“The tough, faceted concrete looks as if it has just landed on this grassy meadow, but its appearance belies a clever structural arrangement that treats the home like a bridge over the landscape, allowing rainwater to flow harmlessly underneath. The bulk of the pitched-roof building, reminiscent of the region’s gabled barns, is raised high off the ground for security, with a drawbridge-style entranceway at one end. The boat-like feel is enhanced by sloping concrete walls that enclose the underfloor storage area, creating spectacular, unencumbered views from within and making the house seem as if it’s launching itself from the hillside. An open-plan central living space is bookended by three bedrooms and a terrace.” – Wallpaper Magazine Design Awards
The highest value of our plot was a wonderful view stretching out. After two years of designing, the project finally appeared. When everything seemed to be ready, an unprecedented risk of landslip appeared in polish mountains. Even though the plot was not in danger of a landslip, just in case, the design has been modified to be in the symbiosys with the nature.
The idea for the house was to become a framework cropping a view. The most appropriate building turned out to be a one-storey house, fully open to the mountain landscape. Due to the location of the plot in absolute wilderness, problem of security came out. The building has therefore been “twisted” so that only one of its corners touches the ground. As a result, part of the ground floor where the bedrooms were, was pulled up to the level of the first floor.
“To minimize the movement of the subsoil – the main cause of landslip – the house has been supported on three independent walls like a bridge, under which rain water flows naturally. Realities of mountain landscape as well as the local law constrained gable roof. To tense the supporting walls and create necessary technical space, an idea appeared to use an “inverted roof” slightly lifted over gound, allowing water to flow. Its undercut optimized the construction and gave the feeling of security by the impression of „floating” above the slope. The house begun to resemble an ark.”
The building was supposed to be cheap and easy to construct. That is why it has been insulated from the inside, the concrete structure became a finished elevation. This is how complicated details and finish have been eliminated. They were replaced by poured concrete from a local producer. Sprayed closed-cell-structure foam turned out to be the optimal insulation. It is also a vapour barrier. Mechanical ventilation located in the attic is an integral element of the system.
Because of the size of glazing, the house needed a shutter to avoid overheating and to provide an effective way of closing the entrance. The shutter was made of 10-meters movable wall and a drawbridge, which connects the house to the garden. The building site has been treated as a part of the mountain, hence the decision to leave the garden untouched. With time, animals living on the pasture around the house started to use the space below its concrete body as a natural shelter. In that way the meaning of the house’s name, originally inspired by its form has been unexpectedly enhanced by life itself.
Project name: Konieczny’s Ark
Location: Brenna, Poland
Coordinates: 49.728073, 18.887401
- Type By Characteristic: Architects House, Holiday House
- Type By Site: Hill House, Countryside / Suburb House
- Type By Size: Small House – (51 sqm – 200 sqm)
- Type By Materials: Concrete House
Site area: 1694 sqm
Usable floor area: 138 sqm
Gross covered area: 78 sqm
Volume: 624 sqm
Project Period: May 2011 – Nov 2015
Completion Year: 2015
Client / Owner / Developer: Robert Konieczny
- KWK Promes – ul. Rymera 3/5 40-048 Katowice, Poland
Design: Robert Konieczny
Authorial Collaboration: Łukasz Marciniak
Collaboration: Marcin Harnasz, Aneta Świeżak
Investor: Robert Konieczny
Structural Engineer: Kornel Szyndler
Text Description: © Courtesy of KWK Promes, Wallpaper Magazine Design Awards
Images: © KWK Promes, Robert Konieczny, Jakub Certowicz, Olo Studio