On England's Suffolk coast, in the village of Thorpeness a large black angled roof floats above the dunes.
Designed by Jarmund / Vigsnæs AS Arkitekter MNAL, this is the Dune House, a holiday house for rental. Downstairs, the house is virtually transparent with four glass walls and a concrete core reminiscent of Mies’s Farnsworth House or perhaps Johnson’s Glass House.
But where those buildings were content to perfect the glass box, this house slams down a top-heavy-roof storey that threatens to crush the floor below. Here the heavy angularity of the roof form is reflected in an equally hectic plan of bedrooms and bathrooms in direct contrast to the mannered rectilinearity below.
This upper floor is not for the faint-hearted, nor the inebriated. Faceted walls of blond timber collide and crash and the glimpses through windows to the views outside are enough to make you feel like you are inside a kaleidoscope. This roof might be negatory but it is not nugatory. On first viewing it gives a firm smack to the chops. However, its success lies in how it inverts our expectations of what a house is and how it should connect to the earth.
In New Zealand we perch our houses tentatively on the earth, waiting for permission to validate the connection. In the Northern Hemisphere, houses are rooted in the ground, often anchored by a cellar. This house could care less about connection. Its levitation is not due to the weightlessness of the glass box but the gravity-defying black roof it supports. We have lift-off.