Perched high on a cliff in Sweden, an almost-invisible house looks over a lake. Architect Petra Gipp’s ‘Refugium’ blends in with the surroundings, treating nature with the respect it so deserves.
Swedish architect Petra Gipp is a builder of refuges. Perched in the midst of forests and on top of cliffs, her sparse buildings reflect a deep understanding and respect of the natural surroundings. Petra Gipp architecture AB was founded in 2009 and currently has seven employees.
Her stunning ‘refuges’ include a Forester’s refuge in Sweden and one at the Kivik Art Center called ‘Illusion’. Gipp has won several awards and has worked on public and private projects including memorials, museums and retreats.
Project development is done in close collaboration with clients, craftsmen and suppliers to design architecture that is economical and green. “Right from the start, our proposal to the customer is one that is aware of an environment friendly perspective; we only use good quality, environment management systems that comply with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001,” shares Gipp.
One of her recent refuges is called Stupet-refugium vid en trappa, literally meaning Precipice – Refuge at a Staircase. The house is placed on a cliff overlooking Lake Vättern in Sweden – a dramatic spot from any angle. It is built with the surroundings firmly in mind. A path leads from the house to the water below. The concrete stairs have ledges which can be used for storage and of course, for catching your breath as you make your way down the cliff to the lake.
Up on the cliff, the house stands like a quiet sentinel in the forest, one with its surroundings. “The building is constructed out of wood, which in Sweden, especially, has to be considered green since the forest is one of our greatest and most available assets,” shares Team Petra Gipp. It also believes that eco friendly materials are the best way to conserve finances and resources and a well thought-out construction process spares both the natural balance and labour costs.
The house occupies 116 sq.m and is flush with light, thereby cutting down the use of artificial illumination substantially. The front façade boasts of floor to ceiling glass windows – the view is clearly the star here. The rectangular shape of the building belongs to Gipp’s trademark style. The light wood planks used for the exterior, along with the glass, make the building almost disappear into the surrounding greenery. “This method endorses our fundamentals and environmental policy resulting in substantial savings in project cost besides the structure lasts longer and has its proud owner cherish it sustainably,” adds Gipp
Inside, the rooms follow the lines of the cliff with steps leading up and down various levels. Concrete niches are filled in with inviting seating. The tall walls are made of light gray concrete to reflect the cliffs.
A long skylight over the corridor pulls in more light, illuminating practically every corner. In the generous living room, the décor is fuss-free and uncluttered. The windows are the focal point wherever you go. There are no drapes or fussy fabrics to distract you from the view.
A long bookshelf adds colour and warmth to the room while a piano and sofas make you feel welcome. Chairs are placed strategically overlooking the windows – and why not, when the lure of the outside is that magnetic? Even the fireplace is placed closer to the windows because one is sure to gravitate towards it.
A wrap-around porch provides additional space for entertaining or just gazing into the distance. Standing on the edge of a precipice has never been more pleasant. There are many lessons to be learned from a project like this: treat the surroundings of the building with humility, respect nature and ensure a minimal footprint whilst constructing. At every step, the house invites you to be a part of nature.
Whether it is the staircase leading to the water, or the thoughtful windows and niches that allow one to celebrate the view, there is no escaping the outdoors.
A well-chosen project and consummate consultants, who have an understanding of the project’s entirety and complexity, and who solve architectural, technical, and energy use issues with a deep study, is the manner by which Petra Gipp Architecture creates effective, aesthetic and sustainable structures.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Åke E:son Lindman