Super Minimal Steel and Concrete Villa with an Unusual Facade

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By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
A cross-hatch covering adds a playful note to a home in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Architect Rok Oman expects the tic-tac-toe comparisons anytime he shows visitors Villa Criss-Cross, a renovated home in Mirje, a historic district in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. The cross-hatch pattern showcased in the building's steel-paneled facade references a pyramid built into the city's stone wall by Jože Plečnik, a famed architect whose Baroque work has become an urban signature. Oman wanted to create similar sense of silent beauty out of rough material with this renovation, which juxtaposes wood, concrete, and steel to create lightness and space. "The panels are perforated, so you get a sense of transparency and can still see the sun," he says. "In this way, we wanted to make the envelope seem light, while recreating the roughness of the former plaster facade." Oman expounded on the textures and motifs of Villa Criss-Cross, which looks down the street at Plečnik's famous pyramid. 

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Rok Oman of OFIS Architects started the renovation of what would become Villa Criss-Cross by tackling a thorny site issue. Since it is located close to the street and perpendicular to the old Roman wall near Ljubljana's ancient fortress, zoning laws require buildings to be set four meters back from the street. By maintaining the original wall and adding steel panels, Oman grandfathered in the new structure and maintained the original orientation.

 

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Perforated steel panels provide a contrasting sense of roughness and lightness, which Oman played with throughout the home's design. The skin adds transparency and graphic energy to the exterior, though Oman did worry about people fixating on the tic-tac-toe element. "It's like calling a rectangular building the Tetris house," he says.

 

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Wood, carpet, glass, and concrete: the entryway is a nexus of material and textures.

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The home's exposed concrete skeleton, wrapped in oak, creates a warm, layered space for living. Oman split the floors by function, with common areas on the ground level, followed by the kids' rooms and then a third-floor suite for the parents.

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Though the minimal layout maxmizies open space, moments of contrast, such as the wood grain against the perforated metal divider, animate the interior.

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The view from the living room shows how the exterior allows for plenty of light yet maintains privacy. The structural steel brace outside repeats the cross-hatch motif, and a cantilevered overhang provides a shaded outdoor patio underneath.

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Oman and his partner Andrej Gregoric had the cupboards, stairs, and bed all custom-made. The interior casework provides storage and adds warmth to the concrete walls.

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The 3,700-square-foot space includes a rainwater collection system and heat pump, and thanks to the double-panel facade, is both well-insulated and energy efficient.

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The simple yet spacious master bedroom opens up to a private terrace.

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In the master bathroom, wrapped in custom oak casework, plenty of natural light permeates the steel panels.