WADA 2019 Residential

HIFI by AABE Atelier d’Architecture Bruno Erpicum & Partners

This unique house is just as much a product of nature as of humans. It is in perfect harmony with the landscape that surrounds it. In fact, the house is a result of its natural environment and, in particular, a tremendous tree, an oak worthy of the most magical fairy tales.

World Architecture & Design Awards 2019
Honorable Mention | Category: Residential
Architects: Bruno ERPICUM
Studio: AABE Atelier d’Architecture Bruno Erpicum & Partners
Country: Belgium
Website: www.aabe.be
Photos: Jean-Luc Laloux

© Jean-Luc Laloux

The clients were captivated immediately by two beautiful trees on this site. When the architect arrived on site, the project took off immediately, inspired by the strength emanating from the oak tree, especially the power of its bark. Bruno Erpicum wished to infuse the force of this material into the house which would echo the energy of the powerful trees.

© Jean-Luc Laloux
© Jean-Luc Laloux

The house reaches out as two wings that open like arms around the tree, but at some distance so as not to disturb it. In fact, the house is tucked in between the two trees, turning towards the most majestic one. The house faces the landscape, the tree and turns away from the built area. The entrance and the garage are to the north. A wall perpendicular to the facade protects the bedrooms and the public area.

© Jean-Luc Laloux
© Jean-Luc Laloux

The coarseness of the bark of the oak tree is reflected in the material of the house, made of unvibrated shuttered concrete where the aggregates can be seen. Each concrete layer of 30 centimetres has been crafted in a manner that is similar to sculpting stone to an ideal texture. This results in a surface that is alternatively smooth and coarse, just like the bark of the tree. These rough-textured walls spread out between two huge smooth concrete surfaces, the floor and the ceiling. This contrast is fundamental and has a balancing effect. Other materials  alternate with the robustness of the concrete: the glass and the polished oak. The house is literally inhabited by material. The low height below the ceiling accentuates the framing effect and the formal power of the space as a whole.

© Jean-Luc Laloux

All the details were designed with clockwork precision so that the material can speak for itself and take priority over the decor. No mechanisms are visible. For instance, the light fittings are set above the concrete slabs so that light literally comes from the material…The house also had to be insulated by designing enough external concrete walls that would not be in contact with the inside.

The result is a powerful living structure in which every graft and element contributes to the overall energy that it exudes. The materials used do not deteriorate, they mature.

This house brings to mind a grotto and a return to our roots but with the advantage of modern comfort. Living here is an experience that is both physical and spiritual.

© Jean-Luc Laloux

The architecture projects us into a fundamental dimension of our experience as a living being as part of nature that surpasses and embraces us at the same time. It reconnects is to our roots and our deep-seated essence.

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