Austrian studio of Penda is working on a design for a small house on a tiny parcel on the countryside of Germany that show how its owners will be able to grow food on its rood transformed into an ascending garden. The Yin & Yang house is designed for a small family, that wants to life off-grid, independent and self-sufficient. Because the lawn on the parcel is not large enough, Penda integrated gardening-planters for vegetables, herbs and fruits on the roof.
“Whenever architects design a building, they take an area away that used to belong to nature.” explains the studio, which has offices in Beijing in China, as well as in the countryside near Salzburg in Austria. “We try to give this space back to plants on the roof. At the same time we provide a gardening-system for the owners with greenhouses in winter and rows of planters for the rest of the year.”
The house is shaped by two separate entities that are connected in a harmonious way with a green roof. Similar than a Yin & Yang sign, the two main areas of the house are intertwined. One half for living, the other half for working. The two roof-sides shape like mountains from the ground to their highest points and surround the garden like a valley in-between them. The ascending roof channels rainwater to the ground where it is stored and reused on dry days to water the plants.
“My wife Fei and me are also living in a small house in a rural area of Austria and the biggest advantage of the countryside is the quality of life. Specially when it comes to growing your own food,” says Chris Precht, founding partner of Penda. “When architecture supports the way we grow our food, a house becomes more than “just” a building. It attracts all your senses. Nature makes the house visually appealing because it changes its look according to the seasons. Natural materials make it haptic. You can hear your house, because different animals like bees or birds become part of the daily life. It has its own natural scent, based on the plants growing on the roof. And in a way you are able to eat part of the house. This sensible architecture creates a special bond to the building and it creates a personal relation.”
The living roof is not just a tool for living a autarkic life-style, but also a design element. Nature is a patient sculpturer and transforms the house over time. Depending on the season, the house blooms in different colours and different scents. From vibrant colours in spring to a white, the house changes over time and transforms itself in harmony to its surrounding.
“Growing your own herbs, vegetables and fruits, changes our relationship to food,” says Fei Tang. “In our garden, we try to grow as much of our daily nutrition as somehow possible. The vegetables might not look as perfect as the normed ones from the supermarkets, but they sure taste better and are more nutritious. And most importantly you know what you eat and taste the work and love that comes from your own garden. Real food becomes part of your identity. The same way that architecture does. To combine both in one harmonious design, gives a poetic image for a small plot on the countryside.”
The house is conceptualised for a young family that would like to live and work on the countryside. Rural areas around our globe are trying to find strategies of how to attract young people. Forecasts show that cities and urban areas attract young people. By 2050 more than 70% of our population will live in cities. Architects are called upon to find solutions how to revive the countryside.
“I do think one step is to integrate the quality of life on the countryside into the building. We millennials are a very fortunate generation,” adds Chris Precht. “We have the opportunity to live a more flexible life-style than previous generations. Through technology and cheap air-fare, our world got more connected and we are able to live off the beaten track but work on a global scale. My wife and me are living in the mountains of Austria, but work on projects world-wide and are able to enjoy the benefits of both worlds. The Yin & Yang house is designed for a family with a similar life-style and mindset.”
The Yin & Yang house was exhibited at the Documenta in Kassel and part of an effort from architects to work on small houses to revive the region of Edersee and bring back a young generation of creatives to the countryside. The house is scheduled to start construction mid 2018.
all images courtesy of Penda