“When an architect couple has young kids, there will arrive a day when they ask:
—Mom, dad,… You´re architects, aren´t you?
—And you make houses for people?
—Yes, of course,…
And then comes the key question:
—So why don´t you do a house for us?
In such a situation, there are two possibilities: find an excuse to avoid it, or promise them that you will make a house especially designed for them.”
Such was the situation in which Anna and Eugeni Bach (Bach Arquitectes) found themselves in recently, and thus promised to build a house for their kids on their grandparents farm in Finland.
The cottage is mainly based on a section: the structure is very simple, repeated in two equal modules but oriented in opposite directions. One of these modules is double-height (to the scale of children), which allows an adult to enter the house without having to bend. The other module has two levels, connected by a simple ladder allowing a more complex game inside.
This starting point means that from the outside, the house acquires the presence of an almost abstract object, without reference to the scale; while inside, when crossing the two modules you can identify the prototypical section of a childish house, with the typical symmetrical roof, like the typical houses kids draw.
The interior becomes what children understand as an essential house: a larger space that could be the living room, a lower space where the kitchen could be imagined and a higher ground where there could be the rooms. The abstract nature of the interior spaces allows a child’s imagination to flow, and those spaces that could be identified as a domestic interior can suddenly become play spaces.
The construction of the house took two weeks, built by the architects and two of their descendants. For Bach Arquitectes, the experience “was an educational process as rewarding as pedagogic: children saw and understood that things are achieved with effort, and that you can build your own dreams.”
For the structure and the floors were devised using spruce wood from the grandparent´s farm, from trees planted by family members in the past. The rest of the wood was bought at a local hardware store, from small wood sawmills in the area. Structure, floors, walls and roof are made of wood, using traditional construction techniques used in Finnish barns, such as leaving a nail distance between slats to ventilate the house, or a roofing system made from a simple overlapping of grooved wooden planks to prevent the ingress of water.
Only a small galvanized flashing helps protecting the wood cuts at the facades.
The house was painted with vertical white stripes, which persist on the roof and help to explain the original section of the project. The rest of the wood is left untreated, so that over time it will take a grayish hue that will increasingly contrast with the painted surfaces, showing more obviously as time goes on, and also meaning to symbolise how children get older.
These strips liken the volume it to a fair house or an old beach changing hut, although according to the architects “in this case, its location in a rural environment, surrounded by apple trees, the house has a more dreamlike character.”