As you may know, open plan layouts with huge glass windows and doors are beautiful to behold and inhabit, but sadly, they’re not very big in Nigeria, largely due to issues of security and privacy. But, Polish Architects KWK Promes, just may have a solution to this conundrum, albeit an extreme one.
May I present to you the “SAFE HOUSE”, nestled on the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland, and designed to literally ‘open’ and ‘close’. With the simple press of a button, the house transforms from an open space layout with glass walls and great views into an impenetrable concrete box completely closed to its surrounding environment and designed to keep unwanted visitors out. When ‘open’ however, the two storey,560 sq m home seamlessly blends with a beautiful garden and surrounding landscape while the featured ‘draw bridge’ (yes! draw bridge) is lowered to give access to roof terrace above an indoor pool.
These movements are not limited to the immediate home but also create some dynamic ‘interference’ with the site. For instance, when the house opens, usually at daytime, the side walls (eastern and western) about 2m high and 22m long, slide out towards the fence of the site creating a sort of temporary courtyard. In this space, visitors who have crossed the sliding gates into the property are ‘screened’ within this ‘safety zone’ before they can be let into the house. This keeps people from waltzing into the home and also keeps children playing in the garden from running uncontrollably into the street. However, when the house reverts to its closed state, at night, the temporary safety court yard disappears giving access to the garden and surrounds but not the house itself.
This could be seen as something of an “organic” response from a rather robotic and mechanical structure.
on the left ‘closed’ on the right ‘open’.
‘closed’ ground floor plan
‘open’ ground floor plan showing temporary courtyard
first floor ‘closed’
first floor ‘open’
section showing draw bridge
section showing roll down gate
These ‘open and close’ movements are made possible by the mobile elements of the design which include large ‘shutters’ which are really just very thick hinged exterior walls that cover 2.8m high windows, a 14m high roll down gate (which could double as a projection screen for movie nights), and the aforementioned drawbridge that drops from the upper floor to a roof terrace above the pool, all of which are mechanically operated by built-in electronic engines. While the main structure is one large concrete monolith, these mobile units are built using light weight steel frames, filled with mineral wool, for insulation and finally clad, same as the main structure, with cement bonded particle boards and waterproof plywood, all painted with a dark wood stain, befitting for its location in the rural landscape.
So from a bright ‘open’ house at day to an outwardly dark ‘closed’ house at night, this beautiful concrete fortress which boasts also of a hybrid renewable energy system (solar and heat) is truly one of a kind, but, while the idea of a house that can ‘close’ itself does evoke a sense of Optimum security, I do wonder if some will perceive it as ‘prison-like’. If they do, I’m sure the images of the house in its open state would put such perceptions to bed.