The Cosmic Boulder Home: 8 Inspirational Features Of The Rock’n’House By Christian Wassmann

  • Project Title: The Rock’n’house
  • Project Type: Residential
  • Architect: Architect Christian Wassmann
  • Area: 280 sqm
  • Completion Date: 2021
  • Photography: Iwan Baan
  • FF & E: Horgenglarus, Okro Gallery, R & Company
  • Solar Panels: Sunstyle.
  • Wood: Locally Sourced
  • City: New York
  • Country: USA

In 2021, Architect Christian Wassmann and his family welcomed a 12,000-year-old glacial erratic boulder into their home. They transformed it into the central core of their sustainable, biophilic house design, creating a truly cosmic living space.

Imagine a home that seamlessly merges with its natural surroundings, where every window is a frame for breathtaking views, and the very rock it’s built around becomes the heart of the design. Welcome to the Rock’n’House! A visionary creation by architect Christian Wassmann, nestled in the serene Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. This exemplary home not only embraces the boulder that rests at its core but also exemplifies sustainable living in harmony with nature.

Image of the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman

The Rock’n’House story, originally published on Architectural Digest, begins with a captivating invitation from Mother Nature herself—a boulder perched on the highest point of the land, beckoning the architects to design a house around its ancient presence. From this inspiration, Wassmann crafted a dwelling that is a beautiful blend of design, sustainability, and a deep connection to the cosmic world. With a conical roof adorned in solar panels that produce more energy than it consumes and a rainwater harvesting system, this house embodies the future of eco-conscious living.

Image of the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman

You can experience it (the boulder) very differently from one day to another, from one moment, from one hour to the next. I hope the boulder likes the attention. Yeah… I think he was a little lonely for 12,000 years till we found him… or he found us. 

Architect Christian Wassmann – Inside a Family Home Built Around a 12,000-Year-Old Boulder | Unique Spaces | Architectural Digest

Inside, the Rock’n’House is a journey of uniquely laid out spaces that functionally transition into and out of each other. From the sunken living room that seems to merge with the bedrock to the geometric centre of the house—the curved kitchen island, where countless conversations and culinary adventures begin. The design aligns not only with aesthetics but with purpose, allowing occupants to inhabit every inch with comfort and connection to the ever-changing surroundings. Join us as we take a deep dive into the inspirational features of the Rock’n’House and explore how these design principles can inspire sustainable living in Nigeria’s context.

1. Environmentally Responsive Layout

The Rock’n’House is a good example of an environmentally responsive spatial design. Through careful design and consideration of the site’s natural features, this residence seamlessly integrates with its surroundings. The architectural approach prioritizes views, natural light, and passive solar heating while minimizing energy consumption. The layout strategically positions windows and living spaces to maximize cross-ventilation, reducing the need for mechanical cooling systems. This sustainable design approach is one that will particularly benefit the Nigerian situation today.

Image of the construction of the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman

2. Conical Solar Roof

The Rock’n’House boasts a roof design that goes beyond conventional aesthetic and structural function. It has a conical shape and is covered with overlapping photovoltaic panels. The roof optimizes solar exposure, resulting in an impressive annual electricity generation of 18,000 kilowatt-hours, significantly surpassing the house’s consumption needs. According to Architect Wassman, the remaining energy is used for their electric vehicle charging and contributed back to the grid. Moreover, the roof’s unique geometry allows for rainwater collection, contributing to sustainable water management, including the creation of a swimming pond.

3. Scenic Windows

Within the Rock’n’House, windows are not merely architectural openings; they are thoughtfully positioned to provide captivating views of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Valley. These windows are strategically located to frame the interesting views of the surrounding, capturing natural light, seasonal changes, and even the stars. The intention was to provide proper ventilation and visual continuity, enhancing the occupants’ connection to the environment.

Image of the scenic window in the Rock'n'house by Architect Christian Wassman
Image of the scenic windows in the Rock'n'house by Architect Christian Wassman
Ceiling hosted fire place
Image of the windows in the Rock'n'house by Architect Christian Wassman
Image of the interior of a bedroom in the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman
Main bedroom
Image of a bedroom in the Rock'n'house by Architect Christian Wassman
Son’s bedroom
Image of the star gazing window in the Rock'n'house by Architect Christian Wassman
Roof window in Guest sleeping area

4. Locally Sourced Building Materials

The architect used local materials to promote eco-friendly building practices. A significant portion of the structure is built using sustainably harvested wood from certified forests. This choice aligns with sustainability goals by reducing transportation-related carbon emissions and supporting regional economies. Additionally, the fact that the wood especially was sourced from the locality, it was easy to match the aesthetic with the natural surroundings.

Image of locally sourced wood for the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman
Image of locally sourced wood for the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman
Image of locally sourced wood for the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman
Image of locally sourced wood for the house built around a boulder by Christian Wassman

5. Biophilic Bathroom

Even in the private spaces of the Rock’n’House, a connection to nature is thoughtfully provided. The bathrooms are designed to offer an unconventional, nature-infused experience. The concept of an outdoor shower was recreated in the kids’ bathroom with a drainage system directly into the concrete slab. This enabled them to simulate an open-air bathing experience while providing an immersive natural setting.

6. Double-Functioning Handrail

The handrail in the guest wing of the house serves dual roles. Beyond its primary function of ensuring safety on the staircase to the sleeping area, this distinctive handrail operates as a naked-eye observatory. It is aligned such that you can see the North Star – Polaris from the living area of the guest wing. The hand rail is sloped to 42 degrees parallel to the earth’s north-south axis.

Handrail that doubles as a star-gazer in the rock'n'house
Handrail that doubles as a star-gazer in the rock'n'house
A view of the handrail capturing the North Star – Polaris from the living area.

7. Radial Kitchen Counter

The radial kitchen counter, crafted by skilled carpenters in the locality, enabled a seamless transition from culinary preparation to dining. It took its centre from the courtyard around the boulder. From the counter, the boulder is visible at eye level through a circular fixed window. The shade of wood used, stands out in comparison to the dark colour of the floor and the kitchen cabinets.

Curved Kitchen counter in the house built around a boulder
Curved Kitchen counter in the house built around a boulder

8. Sunken Living Room

The sunken living room serves as both a functional space and an innovative cooling solution. Utilizing radiant floor cooling, the living room floor is equipped with tubing through which chilled water from the geothermal system circulates during hot summer months. This cooling method is very sustainable and energy efficient. Additionally, the design allows for condensation to form on the walls of the sunken living room, creating a reflective pool during rainstorms, adding a contemplative dimension to the space. This shows potential as a creative cooling strategy in residential design.

Sunken round living room
Sunken round living room

In Nigeria’s changing climate and challenging economic landscape, adopting these inspirational features of the Rock’n’House where applicable is a strategic move. These features offer sustainable solutions to rising temperatures, energy costs, and environmental degradation. By incorporating such innovative designs, Nigeria can, on the long-run, improve living standards, reduce energy expenses, and promote eco-conscious construction practices. Embracing sustainable practices is not just a choice but a necessity for a healthier, more affordable, and sustainable future.

All images are courtesy Architectural Digest

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