A 1970s UFO House Gains a Glorious Renovation

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By Lucy Wang
A unique UFO house in Italy is saved from the chopping block thanks to an energy-efficient renovation.

A homage to the bold charms of midcentury Space Age design, the UFO House has been restored to its former brilliance thanks to the work of architect Stefan Hitthaler.

The homeowners originally planned on demolishing the dated holiday retreat, which had fallen into disrepair. Yet Hitthaler saw promise in the 1973 building and refurbished the 660-square-foot home to complement the clients’ modern lifestyle.

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The house is a five-sided prism elevated on six concrete pillars.

The house is a five-sided prism elevated on six concrete pillars.

Hidden away in a forest near Brunico, the UFO House overlooks stunning valley views and Brunico Castle.

Hidden away in a forest near Brunico, the UFO House overlooks stunning valley views and Brunico Castle.

For a total gut-renovation cost of 230,000€ (approximately $266,330 USD), Hitthaler replaced the siding and interior finishes, constructed a more spacious deck, added modern amenities and energy-saving systems, and also inserted a spaceship-inspired retractable staircase near the entry.

The home is accessed via a custom-made Corten steel ladder. When the ladder is retracted, the property appears to float above the sloped terrain.

The home is accessed via a custom-made Corten steel ladder. When the ladder is retracted, the property appears to float above the sloped terrain.

The renovated chalet is clad entirely in untreated larch (including the roof and deck).

The renovated chalet is clad entirely in untreated larch (including the roof and deck).

During the remodel, Hitthaler was careful to preserve the original design of Professor Josef Lackner, the Innsbruck–based architect who realized the UFO House 45 years ago. 

The original balcony was replaced with a larger deck built from larch. The deck is supported by diagonal steel beams that are attached to the existing concrete pillars.

The original balcony was replaced with a larger deck built from larch. The deck is supported by diagonal steel beams that are attached to the existing concrete pillars.

New high-performance glazing lets in plenty of light and landscape views without compromising energy efficiency. The windows are framed in larch on the interior and in dark steel on the exterior.

New high-performance glazing lets in plenty of light and landscape views without compromising energy efficiency. The windows are framed in larch on the interior and in dark steel on the exterior.

"The renovated house provides better usability and optimized living comfort thanks to an increase in thermal insulation, and the installation of radiant floor heating with a heat pump and ventilation," explains the architect. 

"All these solutions generate greater energy savings. These interventions haven’t compromised the idea and structural quality of the outer shell and interior."

Anchored by a central fireplace, the main room features two large beds on either side. There are two additional bedrooms near the kitchen behind the fireplace. The UFO House can sleep a total of eight people.

Anchored by a central fireplace, the main room features two large beds on either side. There are two additional bedrooms near the kitchen behind the fireplace. The UFO House can sleep a total of eight people.

The walls and built-in furnishings are constructed from fir, while the original timber floors have been replaced with waxed concrete, which also covers the fireplace. The kitchen unit behind the fireplace features a countertop built of basalt sourced from the Alps.

The walls and built-in furnishings are constructed from fir, while the original timber floors have been replaced with waxed concrete, which also covers the fireplace. The kitchen unit behind the fireplace features a countertop built of basalt sourced from the Alps.

Windows added to the side corners of the north facade bring additional daylight indoors.

Windows added to the side corners of the north facade bring additional daylight indoors.

The concrete staircase that leads to the basement is illuminated with LED strips.

The concrete staircase that leads to the basement is illuminated with LED strips.

In the basement, the updated bathroom includes a new shower and toilet. The bathroom walls and ceilings are waxed concrete, while the counter is made from fir.

In the basement, the updated bathroom includes a new shower and toilet. The bathroom walls and ceilings are waxed concrete, while the counter is made from fir.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record & Interior Design: Stefan Hitthaler

Builder/ General Contractor: Firma Plankensteiner Holzbau

Structural Engineer: Ing. Walter Sulzenbacher / Baukanzlei Sulzenbacher

Lighting Design: Lucia Rizzi

Cabinetry Design: Alton Egon