Anne Isopp

Scaled-down living, Vienna

The CJ5 House by Caramel demonstrates how to achieve dense urban
development while still deploying individualized design.

Published in A10 #62 Mar/Apr 2015

‘Is it possible to build a single-family home on a plot measuring 5 x 35 metres?’ This was the question that reached architect Martin Haller of Caramel while on holiday in Italy. It didn’t take him long to come up with his answer: ‘Yes, of course.’ He and his two partners at Caramel, Günter Katherl and Ulrich Aspetsberger, were delighted with this building project, because the opportunity to explore the potential of a vacant lot does not often arise in the densely built city of Vienna. For this long, narrow plot, the
architects developed a residence with an effective floor area of 170 square metres – designed to meet the needs of the owner, a bachelor, while simultaneously offering the potential to adapt to any future changes in his personal situation. In other words, the house is also family- friendly and, despite its restricted footprint, allows a great deal of freedom of design. The long and narrow, completely white building is located on a busy street on the outskirts of Vienna. The exterior displays little of its rich inner life – there is no window on the street side, so the only glimpse of the indoors available to passers-by is a view into the garage when its door occasionally stands open in summer. From the street, the house looks more like a workshop with its narrow facade, garage door, and slim front door. There is no name plate or decoration giving any clue to the fact that this is just a private home. The vacant neighbouring lot offers a good view of the house’s side facade. From this angle, the observer sees a white, windowless firewall with zigzagging eaves reminiscent of the silhouette of a mountain range. At the street side, the house is two storeys tall; at the rear, there is one storey and a roof terrace. In the interior, the rooms are strung together like a pearl necklace; and yet the interior layout is so cleverly arranged that, despite the lack of clear zones, the
spaces feel light and open – almost like a single, large room instead of several individual rooms. From every angle, one experiences another interesting view and a different line of sight. The walls and roof have exposed concrete surfaces, while the floors and stairs are panelled in oak. The entrance to the building is through the garage, past the Mini Cooper. The subfloor heating in the garage (which also serves as a studio) can be clearly felt through the white epoxy resin floor. Heading through a short hall, past the WC
and storage room, one enters the dining area with the living area behind it. From here is a view into the atrium, and at the end of the property is the fitness room, which can only be accessed through the atrium and could later serve as a children’s bedroom. Back in the living area, turning back to face the entrance, one sees the staircase parallel to the hallway. The stairs provide access to the upper storey, where the bedroom, bathroom, office area, and roof terrace are located. The kitchen is integrated into the wide staircase. As it is slightly elevated above the dining table, the owner feels rather like a DJ while he stands there cooking for friends. The owner has also built a cinema in the basement: the large room, entirely in white, has a projector and comfortable seats. In addition to the clever floor plan, the issue of natural light is also cunningly solved. The roof windows and interior atrium become the sources for daylight, given that the house has firewalls on three sides and a lack of windows on the street facade. With such an introverted living environment, it’s appropriate that the residence is nearly energy self-sufficient. Classified as a low-energy house, it generates needed power through an air-to-water heat pump and photovoltaic panels installed on the south-angled roof surfaces.

Info: www.a10.eu, www.caramel.at