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Elle Decor Italia

House fortress built within rocks shows how well-done architecture is welcome in every landscape

Mimetic and thick but with design at heart

Benjamin Benschneider

On San Juan Island, in the strip of land opposite Seattle, there’s a house nestled inside large rocks. We’re not talking about an ancient cave dwelling but about an ambitious design project.

Centuries ago, it was common for men to find a dwelling among the rocks. Why stealing arable land when you could exploit rocks, for sure dry and barren but also perfect for a safe shelter? This is what Seattle-based Olson Kundig Studio took inspiration from. La Pierre (the rock) is a modern house wedged into two large rock walls, covered by a green roof and completely blended in the landscape. So much you cannot see it from far away. 

@ Benjamin Benschneider

@ Dwight Eschlima

Since the beginning, the project was rooted in old traditions. The rock was initially excavated using dynamite and machines, where possible, and later shaped with manual work, an ancient and tiring art whose signs are still present on the rocks. The walls inside the house are still rough, naked and “decorated” with only grooves and gashes, witnesses of their origins. Debris itself have been pressed and turned into concrete floors. 

@ Benjamin Benschneider

The rough and scratchy nature of the rock (where the house takes its name from) does not stop here. We find it in fireplaces, flattened only on top, in the bathrooms, where water flows into tubs carved into the rock and in details, such as the mirror hanging from a narrow crack from the ceiling, recalling the entrance of a cave.

@ Benjamin Benschneider

In contrast with the barren rock, giving this modern villa a rough and tough look, are the decorations, simple and refined at the same time. Antiques are combined with art pieces and tailored elements such as lights. Here, the key concept is personality. Tailored objects and solutions have to tell a story, connecting with the wild rock hosting them.

With the exception of a guest suite, the entire home is set on one level with a wide open space hosting kitchen and living room, while the bedroom has an entire rocky wall that protects its intimacy. The landscape, framed by a huge glass wall, gives the final touch. The vastness of the bay and of the horizon fill in the spaces, cuddling the irregular and rough edges of the house. 


by Elisa Zagaria / 26 June 2017


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