A Silvery Gabled Home Cantilevers Out Amid the Austrian Alps

A Silvery Gabled Home Cantilevers Out Amid the Austrian Alps

By Lucy Wang
Masterful Austrian carpentry, mirrored glass, and prefab elements come together in this nature-focused family home for a pair of schoolteachers.

When Sigurd Larsen was tapped by a young Austrian couple to design a home on their family land in Oberösterreich, the Danish architect decided to bring his expertise with prefabrication to the alpine site. 

The clients, who were planning to raise a family, gave Larsen’s team considerable creative freedom to craft a contemporary home that would embrace the landscape both in form and function. Large windows and glazed walls frame views of the region’s snowcapped mountains and green valley, while the prefabricated cross-laminated timber structure follows the site’s natural slope and allowed for construction with minimal site impact.  

Located 2,600 feet above sea level in Upper Austria, the Mountain House sits at the intersection of the low lands and the Alps.

Although the structure’s timber envelope was built off-site in a factory, the architects highlight the region's reputation for quality carpentry with the use of local craftsmanship for the larch cladding and interior furnishings.  

The roof is covered in dark ceramic tiles that complement the larch cladding that wraps the upper floor. The larch was stained a dark gray, rather than black, and subtly changes color in different light conditions.

"This is our first house in the Alps, and it was a privilege to work with Austrian carpenters," says Larsen, who named the project the Mountain House after its surroundings.

"They are very well educated and bring lots of ideas to the table. With all projects, many decisions on details are made on the construction site during the building process, regardless of how many drawings we produce. So it’s a pleasure when the carpenter calls you with a clever and beautiful solution and not only a problem."

Accessed from the upper level, the home is oriented northwest to southeast to capture views of the mountains towards the south and views of the pine forest uphill to the north.

The covered entrance hall frames views of the valley below.

The simple gabled shape references the rural vernacular, while clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic speak to Sigurd Larsen’s contemporary design sensibilities.

The upper level of the house cantilevers out to shelter the terrace below that was built on the foundation of the former cabin previously on site.

Split into two floors informed by the natural slope, the 1,938-square-foot residence is accessed from the upper level that houses the garage, entrance hall, an office, and the sleeping quarters—including the cantilevered master bedroom, two secondary bedrooms, and two bathrooms. The open-plan communal areas are located downstairs, as is another tell-tale staple of traditional Austrian architecture.

Concrete floors provide a visual contrast to the pine surfaces that wrap the lower-level spaces. The kitchen counter is made from pine and steel.

In contrast to the ground floor, the upper level features pine floors and white plaster walls, which create an airy atmosphere.

Large windows, white walls, and a vaulted roof add to the sense of spaciousness in the master bedroom.

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"The element of a wooden bench in the kitchen (Eckbank) is an essential part of an Austrian home," explains Larsen. "In this house, the bench is located at the key point where the house meets the green sloping hills. Together with a staircase, this element forms the heart of the house and highlights the special feature of the unique landscape."

The angled windows emphasize the placement of the bench at the point where the house meets the natural slope.

One-way mirrored glass wraps around a portion of the home. "We wanted it to reflect like glass so that when you sit on the terrace, you see trees or the view in all directions—including when you look towards the house," says Larsen. The mirror effect is slightly distorted, and no birds have flown into the glass.

Prefabricating the building envelope in a controlled factory environment allowed Larsen’s team to construct the walls, roof, and upper floor deck quickly. However, transporting the prefabricated building elements was a major challenge given the area’s narrow and winding mountain roads. Once on site, the building envelope was assembled in just 12 hours.  

Prefabricated cross-laminated timber was used to construct the freestanding walls that provide storage and organize the spaces of the ground floor as well as the load-bearing floor deck used for the upper level.

Sliding pocket doors can be used to separate the living room from the kitchen and dining areas. "Compared to houses in other European countries, the living room is relatively small and private. The kitchen is larger to accommodate most of the social life of the family as well as everyday rituals," notes Larsen.

In the living room, a large window frames views of the pine forest in the north. The door leads to the south-facing outdoor terrace.

"Full access to the green meadows from the living areas and framed views of the snowy Alps formed the Mountain House in Austria," notes Larsen.

Set atop a small existing foundation, the outdoor terrace is angled towards the south for views of snowcapped mountains, including Großer Priel, the highest mountain of the Totes Gebirge range.

Mountain House ground floor plan

Mountain House first floor plan

Mountain House north elevation

More from Sigurd Larsen:

Take a First Look at Denmark's Amazing New Tree House Hotel

Stoke Your Imagination With This Playhouse-Like Suite in Berlin 

Project Credits:

Architect of Record/Interior Design: Sigurd Larsen / @sigurdlarsen_architecture

Builder/General Contractor/Cabinetry: Holzbau Hurth

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