Designed by C.F.Moller, one of Scandinavia’s leading architectural firms with 90 years of award winning work behind it, Villa Rypen is a symphony composed of nature and raw minimalism. With its quirky shape and modular scheme, it stands out for its one-of-a-kind design.
Aarhus, Denmark, is the European culture capital for 2017. For a year long, the city will be in the limelight showcasing its prime attraction, the Old Town, along with many coveted art museums. While Copenhagen is the capital, Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark, and is often referred to as one of the happiest cities on earth.
On the quiet forest edge of this charming city lies Villa Rypen. The first thing one observes about the house is its asymmetrical shape, angled, much like a parallelogram. Julian Weyer, one of the partners in C.F.Moller acknowledges that this house is built on a “unique plot”. He explains, “It’s a rather narrow plot (158 square metre), and not entirely levelled and so it just wasn’t possible to fit the house into this plot in a traditional way.”
As is often the case, the key challenge turned into an inspiration. Here, the design creates a sense of wrapping around everything – the building does not look like it’s planted in a plot, but something that merges with its ambience, reaching out effortlessly to the abutting forest. Weyer explains, “The building and the terraces are lifted off the ground to create a beautiful ensemble. The shape encompasses everything around, and even extends into the landscape.”
Another distinctive feature of the villa is its openness; the design invites the forest in, and the house stretches its terraces to reach out to the forest’s tall trees and to the garden. Large window sections in a serrated design idiom ensure an inflow of light from several directions, and the view of the forest provides an organic backdrop to the living space in the house.
There is also a sizeable porch that brings a poetic sensibility to the residence, elevated by its proximity to nature. Weyer describes, “The idea was to create a space that connects to the forest; the porch not just opens to the forest but includes it completely. The house is at a slightly higher ground level, so you get a beautiful view of the forest from here. Sitting there, you’re in a space that the house and the forest have built together.”
While it is refreshing to have this openness, it is also necessary to ensure the privacy of its residents. Huge glass windows render a brilliant view, but are offset with wooden walls. Weyer explains this clever execution, “If you look obliquely from the neighbouring plots, then these walls restrict the view. The parallelogram shape is part of the concept, so there is no straight view from outside; the way in which the outside of the house envelops and overshoots the glass provides privacy.”
In continuity with the unconventional nature of design choices, the inside layout of the house has a stark structure that demonstrates the concept of modularity flawlessly. Centred on an airy living and kitchen space, the house has a flexible layout that can be configured in any way the client chooses to. Currently, it is built to be a three bedroom setting, but this can just be changed easily.
Weyer says, “We wanted to keep to a simple, basic structure with ‘interchangeability’ being a key feature. Just by adding a sliding door, for example, the purpose of a room can be easily changed.”
This can be quite shocking at first sight. For, when design has come to mean the expression of the individual, here in Rypen, a lot is unsaid and undefined. “The clients are a middle-aged couple, who wanted a house that can adapt to their current lifestyle, but would also be a place where they can continue to stay as they age,” shares Weyer. Individuality is essential, but it could often create a sense of rigidity as the needs of the residents evolve. And this is something that the C.F.Moller team has managed to evade in this design.
Simplicity and clarity have been the underlying themes in many C.F.Moller projects, winning them acclaim for several international projects such as the University Campus in Aarhus, the National Gallery in Copenhagen, the Darwin Centre at the Museum of Natural History in London, the2012 Olympics’ Athletes Village in London and many others.
In Villa Rypen, too, this unpretentiousness comes through. As Weyer explains, “Doing private residences can be challenging as it’s very personal. However, we resort to simple ways for doing things.” This has led to the house possessing a timeless quality, ready to evolve with time, adapt to different needs and perhaps, even different residents.
Text By Ramya Srinivasan
Photographs Courtesy Julian Weyer