Todd Bracher’s Stripped-Down Sustenance House Asks, What do We Really Need to Live?

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By Dwell / Published by Dwell
A look at the 2017 edition of imm Cologne’s Das Haus.

Four walls and a roof. That’s all a home need provide, the saying goes. Yet in reality, the structures we inhabit are hardly monastic. Many of us have separate places to eat breakfast and dinner, washrooms that don’t include showers or tubs, hidden chambers for concealing things we don’t use, or rooms built just for machines. Designer Todd Bracher calls these appendages "legacies," holdovers from a bygone era, and he’s tired of them. 

"I started thinking about the basics of living, instead of trying to deal with all the stuff that we have," Bracher told us recently as he prepared his Das Haus concept. Sustenance House, which debuted this week at imm Cologne, strives to peel away the home’s superfluous layers and rediscover its essential nature. 

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Bracher began by eliminating the single-purpose rooms that make up most single-family residences. Among the causalities were the dining room, living area, kitchen, and bedroom. What he was left with, two cubes, a wedge-shaped outdoor area, and a floating roof, lumps many states of being into a few zones. 

The first, a pebbly courtyard, serves as a kind of outdoor washroom. Here, sheltered in a nook of the building (and presumably in a balmy climate miles from neighbors), hypothetical residents may appreciate nature as they clean themselves. 

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Visitors enter the home into a long corridor with wraparound shelving and a long countertop. Designed for sustenance, which Bracher broadly defines as everything from food to knowledge, the room is analogous to an eat-in kitchen/living area. During the day, light shines through its walls, which are made of a semi-transparent burgundy textile designed by Création Baumann.

The main room’s connection to nature contrasts it with the only other interior space, a blackened, windowless box. This zone, dedicated to rest, meditation, and sleep, features ambient music, relaxed seating by Jasper Morrison and the Eameses, and a dim moon-like orb for lighting. More than a bedroom, it is a private sanctuary to retreat to at all hours.

Das Haus concepts are meant to be livable, but with its heavily burdened main room and open-air washroom, residing in Bracher’s experiment would be a challenge. Yet the home treats learning, creativity, and introspection as basic human rights that all shelters ought to provide. And that’s more than you can say about many of the more "livable" structures we currently call home. 

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