When an elderly couple commissioned Slovakian architectural studio Compass Architekti to design a house for them in Jarovce, a quiet residential borough outside of the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, they only had three basic requirements: a small house, no stairs and lots of space for their nine grandchildren. Although simple in nature, grouped together these demands presented quite a challenge. How much of a challenge, you may ask, well, let’s just say as much as having to supervise your nine grandchildren playing about the house.
The architects’ answer to their client's brief is appropriately both simple and canny, centered on an L-shape, modernist building that hems in a grassy courtyard. Think of the lawn area as the arena or stage where the children can play their hearts out and the outstretched house partly circumscribing it as the viewing area where they can be supervised from. Meanwhile, the house’s elongate footprint means there’s no need for a second floor, and therefore, no need for stairs.
The slender structure is topped by a cantilevered roof slab boldly banding together the two wings of the house. Curvilinear in shape, it extends towards the garden providing both visual cohesion, enhanced by the mirroring decking underneath, and solar shading; the latter is important because of the building’s orientation. In order to ensure that the yard enjoys unobstructed access to the sun, the house is located on the north side of the plot and the yard on the south. In conjecture with having the south-facing facades fully glazed in order to preserve visual connection between the playground and the interiors, this arrangement means that the house is fully exposed to sunlight. The cantilevered roof blocks solar penetration in the summer, its curvature shaped according to the sun’s trajectory, while permitting it during the colder months of the year as a means of passive heating.
The communal and private quarters are neatly separated in the house’s two wings. The former is designed as an open-plan living area, including dining and kitchen zones, as well as a partly partitioned study, all of which open up to the yard allowing the occupants to easily monitor the grandchildren when they are playing outside. Fully glazed on the one side, with additional clerestory windows on the back, this space allows the daylight to come inside.
The private quarters, on the other hand, are placed behind a wooden wall that ensures privacy. Running parallel to the wall is an access corridor that also connects the living room on the one end and the main entrance on the other. On the back of the house, a small private garden accessible from the master bedroom becomes a refuge when the children are making a ruckus. Meanwhile, at the intersection of the two wings, the cantilevered roof creates a perfect space for outdoor dining and lounging.
The interior design boasts a minimalist, modernist sensibility summarized in the exposed concrete roof, the screed flooring and the neutral color palette of white and grays which is gently complemented by the use of oak for wall cladding and occasionally punctuated by splashes of black in the form of furniture, light fittings and window frames. Sparsely furnished, the living room evinces a sense of spaciousness while providing ample room for the children to roam around when the bad weather confines them inside. Either way, the house is a haven of family life and sophistication.