The Black Rock House by MUS Architects is a 3 bedroom residence in (far away) Bielsko-Biala, Poland that takes an alternative approach to residential design. The design takes the surrounding mountains as the core inspiration and create a sculptural form that is crafted based on the homes functional spaces. Though located in a temperate region, the design approach and resultant form offers lessons that can be applied to tropical contexts. Here’s a break down of the design from the architects.
The main idea was to create something different and original. Not just a single-family house, but an abstract form. We wanted to create a building that refers to the mountainous area, a house that seems to be a result of tectonics and not design processes. This thought was the starting point of the project and the frame that kept the space composition in check.
Therefore, we tried to design and implement the concept of a space by escaping the standards associated with single-family houses. We wanted this house to feel like an erratic boulder embedded in a mountain slope, not an architectural form with walls, windows and a roof.
“Black Rock” originates from the topography of mountainous terrains. “The Rock” is not a cuboid, a cube or a classic house with a gable roof. It is an abstract multifaceted solid without obvious division into walls and a roof
In the south, the house opens up to the garden, the sun and the view of the Beskids (mountains). The southern wall is high and includes openings such as glazing, terrace and loggia, which provide the panoramic view. The northern facade mostly consists of a roof slope falling to the plot border – the house’s wall is low and closed here.
The Design Strategy
The plot is situated on the slope of the mountain. It has a clear decline both in the south and east. The initial plan of the house was adjusted to the slope so that the entire ground floor sits on the ground surface. Based on the natural terrain, the horizontal floor plan was broken half way through.
As a result, the entrance zone with a garage and supplementary rooms is on a different level from the living room, kitchen and dining room. A half-floor has been created so the entire living area is directly connected with the terrace and garden. This design process led to the division of floors in the night part of the house (first floor) and as a consequence we created the multi-pitched roof, whose refractions follow the faults resulting from the house’s functional layout in the actual area. Thus, the form of the roof and the body result from the functional design objectives being adapted to the landscape.
The building’s geometry was built into the topography of the mountain, highly impacting the house’s structure and its final dynamic form. There is a strong relationship between the building and the surrounding landscape. The external character of the house is formed by its multi-layered form as well as by the material which was used as a packaging of the function. The homogeneous and raw black shell conceals internal spaces and levels in skin covering an attractive and dynamic form that derives from the topography of the mountainous terrain.
Sharp, jagged boulder, black slate or basalt lump sticking out of the mountain slope, instead of a classic suburban house. The entire creative process was based on the original idea. It became the genesis of the project and was brought through the entire design and construction process, until the end – the implementation of the “Black Rock”.
Another consequence of the design strategy is the functional layout of the first floor. Horizontal floor plan continues the breakage that was introduced in the lower floor. Two rooms and a closet were placed in the upper part of the plot above the garage.
The remaining floors are situated in the lower part of the house, above the kitchen and dining room. In the living area, the desired higher ceiling was also obtained – empty space above the living room. The most important rooms were situated in the southern part of the plot. They open to the sun, garden and the view. Supplementary rooms are at the northern side.
Designing the Roof
The form of the roof is the result of the design process. It is a flexible packaging, closely related to the function, and in this particular case also to the original location. The ridge is parallel both to the longitudinal axis of the floor plan and the northern boundary of the plot. The Ridge – the highest part of the roof- has been moved from the longitudinal axis towards the south wall. It allows us to have more of a usable space at the best side of the house (open to the view, garden and sun). The ridge break also corresponds to the functional system.
The collapse of the roof slope is closely related to the functional layout of the house, which has been adapted to the cardinal directions, slope reduction and significant level differences of the plot. The roof follows the function and the function adapts to the topography and the landscape.
On the plot that significantly declines towards the south, we designed a single-family detached home. It consists of all the functional features we have planned. The living area and a garage for two cars, as well as an additional room on the ground floor. The total area of the house is 260 sq m.
The building was located along the northern side of the plot. The entrance is planned from the west side, away from the border in such a way that it is easy to access and park at the property.
A large part of the plot in the south remains undeveloped – there is a garden and terraces with the view of the mountains.