More and more building owners are committed to an environmentally conscious and sustainable approach to construction. This is also the case for a couple from southern Germany who created a refuge when they built their family home in Franconian Switzerland, which fully complies with all the ecological standards.

Our longing for nature seems to be inherent in our biological make-up. Even the hippest of city folk cannot really escape this. It is not by chance that trends like urban gardening are taking over the cities, with the aim of counteracting the seemingly unconquerable asphalt and concrete expanses with something green.

Modern architecture in a rural setting

Although big cities offer numerous advantages, the couple decided to forgo all this for the benefits of enjoying a healthy and purposeful life surrounded by nature. But this could not be achieved by simply having a cottage in the countryside. They planned their unconventional refuge based on a completely ecological design compliant with the Passive House Standard. Wouldn’t the building be out of place at the edge of the small village of Betzenstein, in the middle of the Franconian Switzerland Nature Park? Not at all! For this particular couple, it was all about sustainability and environmental awareness.

The location on a northern slope provided optimum conditions for the living areas to face the south. The large panoramic fronts provide plenty of natural light, allow an abundance of thermal energy into the interior of the house and, last but not least, offer fantastic views of the rolling hills. The roof and façade form a monolithic structure, which is covered with dark shingles – an architectural element that is widely used in the region.

It is not just the materials used that take the environment into consideration, but also the shape of the building. In order to balance out the generous spatial layout with additional office space and two holiday apartments, the building was divided into two parallel, gable-ended thresholds with a double pitch roof, connected by a white plastered base. A strong stone wall made from rectangular blocks of ashlar sourced locally from Jura, terraces the slope allowing ground-level access to the outside.

The striking, two-part building gently blends into the hilly landscape of the Franconian Switzerland Nature Park.

The clear stylistic elements of the architecture with a minimalist choice of colour and materials continues seamlessly in the interior area. But it does not convey a sense of minimalism at all: The stairs, which look like they are floating, lead from the entrance area to the gallery upstairs. The airspace that stretches high up into the roof truss creates a captivating sense of spatial interaction in conjunction with the lower floor height at base level.

Ideal conditions for a relaxing holiday

The house is equipped throughout with regenerative building materials that are kind to both our health and the environment. The flooring made of oak parquet is a visible and noticeable example of this; it is nature oiled, deep-brushed and represents 100 per cent healthy living. The rustic charm of the wood complements the sophisticated style of the house. The active and passive use of solar energy, in particular the electricity-efficient electrical appliances and lights, the building’s sustainable drainage technology with a rainwater cistern and the natural landscaping of the garden complete the overall ecological concept, which promotes a “greener”, more gentle form of tourism.

Visitors who suffer from allergies or who are simply looking for some peace and quiet will be right at home in the two holiday apartments on the ground floor. The cosy living comfort with a measurable healthy indoor climate and electro-smog-free environment ensures maximum relaxation.

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