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The Fascination of a Building Envelope

10 May 2022

Visions only become reality when thoughts turn into concrete ideas. With this conviction, architect and industrial designer Kai Stania designed his own house, which fascinates not only because of its geographical location high above Vienna, but above all with its own choreography.

There are probably easier tasks for architects than that of also being the client themselves. Kai Stania, who works as a freelance architect and product designer in the same place where he lives, ventured into this - one might almost say schizophrenic - balancing act.  Combining the two roles was not always easy, he admits openly.

Framing a moment: The black framing of the architecture, especially in combination with the generous window areas, looks dramatic and light at the same time.
Photo: ©  Walter Luttenberger 

As a versatile, creative person, Kai Stania thinks in images and sceneries. This penchant for pictorial drama and the photographic capture of moments is also expressed in the architecture of the modern single-family house, which stands at one of the highest spots in the Vienna Woods and, with its black façade, marks the imposing finale of a whole series of architecturally rather less sophisticated homes on the way there.

Openings facing the street were used sparingly. The black façade panels reflect the surroundings and give the surfaces a dynamic liveliness.
Photo: ©  Walter Luttenberger 

People often smile when architects have a penchant for the colour black and show it off visibly. For Kai Stania, however, it is not a question of fashion or a show of allegiance to the building industry, but rather pursues a completely different vision with the not quite-every-day, all-black exterior of his house. Only in his company, where he guides the visitor to certain points with special lines of sight and lets him into his personal design script, does it become clear how intensively he has studied the place, its surroundings and the fascination of the two combined.


The transition between indoors and outdoors takes place gently and in "stages": With simple frames, the cubature of the house is extended and in this way creates a space "in between".
Photo: ©  Walter Luttenberger 

Kai Stania chose a timber frame construction for the house, which optimally supports his concept of openness and transitions.  Even though the cantilevered construction makes the building appear much larger than it actually is, the sharp-edged architecture with its precise lines nevertheless restrains itself in such a way that nature becomes the actual protagonist of the entire stage. The frame, which constantly captures new sections throughout the day and the seasons, thus offers each room its own special qualities. It is exciting that the local building regulations probably also contributed a little to this design element: The fiction completes the architecture, even where setbacks of the building structure were necessary.


Especially at dusk, the black architecture takes on an even clearer contour, which is reinforced when the lights come on in the house and the structure is illuminated from within.
Photo: ©  Walter Luttenberger 

What becomes clear to the on-looker upon closer inspection are the individual scenes and sections that Kai Stania wants to capture with his black-edged architecture. A certain Cinemascope effect is created, which makes the moment stand still for a short time, only to continue in the next shot. Taking into account the requirements of the building authorities, the architect also managed to realise the cubature of his vision. The prescribed step-back of the upper floor is given a completely new volume by the black, sharp lines. The frames that outline this are not simply creative gimmicks; they also fulfil the functional purpose of providing shade for the open spaces positioned all around.


The reflection of black surfaces was also adopted in the interior to completely dissolve spatial boundaries.
Photo: ©  Michael Nagl


In order to realise his visions so that they actually corresponded to his ideas, Kai Stania found an experimental partner for his project in Trespa. After all, black facades are not a common sight in Austria, and this house was even the first private project at the time that proved the courage to use unusual colours. With its sharp edges and concise contours, the black makes a significant contribution to the result of this outstanding building. A total of 462 square metres of black Trespa Meteon panels were installed, which, together with the generous glass surfaces, create a harmonious, albeit contrasting, interplay.


Here you can never tell exactly where you are - in the living room, in the kitchen, or already in the garden?
Photo: ©  Michael Nagl


Kai Stania thinks his designs through to the end. He pays particular attention to the transitions, which must be fluid in order to preserve the whole. In the case of his own house, he simply removes spatial boundaries, whether from the interior to the exterior, from living, dining and cooking, or between bedroom and bathroom. Many of his own designs have also found a home with him in this context: Cooking is done on the k7 cooking island, which rises and falls like a stage and can almost be closed completely to form a monolith. They sleep in the riletto bed, also designed for the manufacturer Team 7, while working in the Bene office and the table is, of course, a genuine Wittmann.


Views, but no glimpses: The personal retreat areas are open plan, preserving privacy from the outside.
Photo: © Michael Nagl

Once the daylight has disappeared behind the horizon and the blackness of the night slowly merges with the architecture to form a unity, the house once again appears in a different role. The interior lighting gives the architecture an even more graphic face and ultimately a completely different dimension, which will be transformed again into a new spectacular filming location the next morning.


Vienna at your feet: from here you can say good night to the capital's most beautiful sunset.
Photo: © Walter Luttenberger

Originally written by Barbara Jahn




The Fascination of a Building Envelope
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