The Equinox Passive House in Bulgaria is a sturdy, beautiful neighbour of the Black Sea. Its eccentric shape is part of a grand design to minimise its carbon footprint, and to pay the ultimate tribute to the sun.
Built to boldly face the Black Sea near the coastal spot of Kavarna in Bulgaria the Equinox Passive House is remarkably handsome and environment-friendly; besides, it is not as much a house as an obeisance to the mighty solar deity.
The precarious shape of its top half may hog all attention but its entire structure, carefully planned to be as unobtrusive in its surroundings as possible, is equally impressive.
Bulwarked by three major elements – glazed glass, stone and wood – this house sports a clean, expansive façade that is acutely aware of wind direction and natural temperature fluctuations. It jumbles up bedrooms and lounge area spaces, and has tossed around the hierarchy of the pool and the garden.
The result is a wildly unconventional building in a spectacular setting, but with minimal damage to the environment.
Ignatov Architects obviously worked on this project keeping our solar system order in mind, that is the sun at the centre of all activity. So, serving as the eccentric hat to the conservative lower block is a heaving mass of solid material, bowing dangerously, in order to be parallel to the sun on a summer solstice noon.
This magical substructure has a certified triple-glazed glass face, split into large blocks; a thin wooden forehead; and a stony side profile that stands out in disorderly defiance to the sheen around. The glass face of the hulk reflects the pool, the trees and shrubs nearby, and the blue sea beyond, creating an illusion of an oasis.
“The tilt is essential for the project because it blocks the summer heat out and yet lets the warm winter rays into the house, improving its thermal balance. In addition, the tilt improves the view from inside out because it eliminates internal reflections,” says Borislav Ignatov of Ignatov Architects.
The roof also contains an oculus that energises a solar calendar dial in the living room, enabling the residents to trace the sun’s regimented movements all through the year. Solar panels have been fitted to one end of the natural slope of the landscape near the linear pool. The only effort at manicured greenery is the flat, green scarf of grass on the roof. The rest is all native shrubbery typical of a coastal town.
The house is structured upside down; the car park and the entrance are on the top and on descending you come to the kitchen/dining rooms, the study and the living areas. The bedrooms occupy the lowest level and look out to the simple pool area. Beyond this point is the uninterrupted view of the horizon.
The house is a solidly built environmental force. Its shape and material use ensure all the necessary northern wind deflection to keep internal temperatures even. The air supply is kept fresh by an integrated ventilation system with recuperation. Rain water harvesting makes sure that water is used smartly and waste management rolls through with on-site composting. This tight arrangement of energy savers cumulatively cut out the need for heating by over 90%. “A small bio-active wastewater treatment unit turns refuse into dry bio-compost and irrigation water,” adds the architecture team.
The Equinox Passive House further extends the influence of the growing global ‘passive house’ technology movement. By sticking to, in fact even improving upon, all the energy-saving intelligence of this school of thinking, and at the same time relying on a distinct virtuosity of form, Ignatov Architects have added vigour to the possibilities of the overall movement. By matching the rough beauty of locally sourced stones with the polished wood and glass, the architects have infused character into the house. “The use of local materials is part of the project’s strategy to cut down on travel miles and thus save on energy cost and pollution arising from unnecessary transportation,” adds Ignatov.
This juxtaposition of the unchiselled and the carefully refined, like the cobbled driveway alongside soft grass, is an easily miss-able detail of this house. But it again is an intrinsic part of a grand design of unassuming efficiency and elegant beauty.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Architects