Located on a steep slope backed by a forest and almost 1km from the nearest Austrian village of Schnepfau, Bregenz, Haus Ruscher presents a profile of two solid concrete cubes varying only in the addition of the home’s windows. The simplicity of the profile was achieved by constructing the exterior walls as solid structures 65cm thick. The hull of the building is created in two parts of the outer shell and the core insulation and each wall is one continuous piece of concrete over 9.5m high. The floors within the solid walls are attached with metal that has been drilled into the main house’s 3-storey vertical concrete slabs.
The house is backed on the north by a thick woodland with pastures on the other three exposures and the muse for the concrete cubes is that of large geometric boulders nestled into the landscape. And the brief from the client required the architect to leave as much of the site untouched.
The surrounding pastures grow right up to the edge of the concrete, emphasizing the idea of boulders emerging from the ground and as with nature, the two concrete boulders are of varying heights and widths.
An access road leads to a set of stairs between the two buildings, which in turn lead to the entrances at the back of each house – neither of which is visible from the access road.
Both of the roofs use an inverted design and are made with a layer of large format prefab concrete slabs.
The houses have a ground source heat pump incorporated into the design for under floor heating. Added to the heat pump is the exceptional thermal mass provided by the concrete shell which not only provides stable warmth during the winter months, but also a consistent cooling throughout the heat of the summer.
The double shell concrete exterior is constructed without any horizontal construction joints.
Access to the home is through an elevated walkway that keeps the entry door off of the ground.
The interior walls are also constructed of one solid piece of concrete that run from the main level all the way up to the roofline. This singular wall process eliminates any visible construction joints created by the horizontal planes of the floors and ceilings. All the interior concrete has a sandblasted finish and the wood clad floors are Elm.
The two bedrooms and guest house have wood clad interiors and while the concrete walls have a flush inside window treatment, the wood interiors have a flush outside treatment so that blinds can be fitted to the windows for privacy and heat control.
While the kitchen in the main house might feature concrete walls, the cabinetry continues the Elm wood on its door and drawer fronts as well as on the counter tops.