Ian Shaw Architekten

Ian Shaw Architekten

Frankfurt am Main, DE


Villa W

From the street this white monolithic scheme seems impenetrable, its windowless façade and recessed entranceway delineating a clear demarcation between the public and private realms. Surrounding properties are a mixture of two and three storey pitch roof housing. All have been carefully referenced in determining the project’s scale, mass and proportions. A series of setbacks on floors one and two allude to the timeless ziggurat form. And as a way of a vertical counterpoint to the building’s robust horizontality, the traditional chimney is articulated as an elegant rectilinear column.

Villa W is about generating presence. The monochromatic walls are Romanesque in stature, giving the building its immense sense of permanence. This is architecture communicating through its structural ontology the importance of place and dwelling.

The scheme utilises a restrained palette of materials: for the externals walls, one course of high insulation clay blocks; for the internal configuration, cast in-situ concrete. The house is finished in a mineral based render, so preserving the breathability of the walls. As there is no specific insulation layer used in the build, the clay blocks are specified at 450mm thick in order to achieve the desired U-values.

Villa W provides 640 sq metres of living space over four levels. The floor-to-ceiling heights are generous: 2.4m, 2.8m, 2.6m and 2.4m from the lower ground level to the second floor respectively. The main social spaces, a living and dining area on the ground floor and a gallery/study on the first floor, are located to the rear of the property, orientated towards the garden via the fully glazed south facing elevation. Here the building’s structural credentials, courtesy of a large inverted concrete U-frame, allow for the insertion of a dramatic double height space (6m x 6m x 3.4m), which articulates these interiors as one large interconnected two-tier cuboid.

The development's second floor L shaped composition, with full height glazing on three sides, delivers scenic views of the Tanus mountain range. A skylight situated above the staircase provides diffused north light. This soft, even illumination creates a sense of expectation as one ascends, which on fine days is heightened by diagonal rays of sunlight via the pavilion’s south west glazing.

This use of light as a building element, defining space and animating form, is central to the design. Nowhere is this more evident than in how the building presents itself on its north/south axis, the seemingly solid north facing facade's strikingly contrasting with the fully glazed south elevation. This dynamic defines the scheme’s spatial tectonic configuration, and in so doing delivers a dwelling that feels deeply rooted in its surroundings.

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Status: Under Construction
Location: Frankfurt am Main, DE
Additional Credits: All images courtesy of Ian Shaw Architekten.
Photography: Felix Krumbholz
Modelmaker: Innovation Technologies GmbH, Frankfurt am Main

Project Data

Location Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Architects Ian Shaw Architekten BDA RIBA
Type of project Four storey new build
Client anonymous

Funding private

Total cost 1.75 M Euros 

Contract duration 9 months
Gross internal floor area 640m²

Form of contract Standard German contract

Quantity surveyor Ian Shaw Architekten
Planning supervisor Ian Shaw
Structural Engineer RSP Frankfurt


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