If you'd prefer your fantasy vacation home to be set into the face of a cliff rather than dangling from one, Casa Brutale, a conceptual hideaway overlooking the Aegean Sea, is likely up your proverbial alley. However, you might want to stock up on antiemetics given that the constantly churning sea is an integral — and impossible-to-escape — part of this dizzying, dramatically sited dwelling.
Described by Greek-Dutch design studio Open Platform Architecture (OPA) as an “unclad statement on the simplicity and harmony of contemporary architecture” created to “serve its owner and respect the environment,” Casa Brutale is sure to appeal to those with frequent James Bond-inspired villain’s lair fantasies and anyone with an fondness for infinity pools. In this case, Casa Brutale’s glazed-bottom infinity pool serves as both skylight and rooftop.
In fact, if it weren’t for the glass-bottomed, ground-level swimming pool and the 50-step staircase leading down into the cliff (there’s also an elevator), you'd never really know that Casa Brutale was even there. Hidden underground with “only one façade on the cliff side and no volume extruding from the ground level,” OPA describes the home's optical impact on the surrounding environment as being “minimal.” While a huge chunk of rock would have to be removed from the cliff to make way for Casa Brutale, it’s certainly not blocking any views — the dwelling enjoys a front row seat at basement level, if you will — or breaking any height restrictions.
Blessed with superb thermal insulation thanks to its subterranean nature and swimming pool-cum-roof, this so-called “ geometrical translation of the landscape,” is an unfussy and unadorned affair with built-in furniture and an emphasis on simple, basic materials: unfinished concrete, wood, glass and not much else. As you can tell from the conceptual renderings, these digs are minimalist to the max. Both the sky and the sea are the main event at Casa Brutale and, as such, there’s little to distract from the stunning Aegean views.
And about those views …
While the dramatic sea ‘n’ sky scenery enjoyed from Casa Brutale is indeed mercilessly beautiful, the dwelling’s name is a nod to Brutalism, the modernist architecture movement that was all the rage throughout Eastern and Central Europe — and on college campuses the world over — from the late 1950s through the early 1980s. Hulking, humorless and aggressively grey, Brutalism’s space-age citadels could easily be described as being brutal on the eyes — and on the soul.
And they often are.
Frequently topping "world's ugliest" lists, many bunker-like Brutalist structures — predominately civic buildings, housing complexes, hospitals, libraries and parking garages — rank among the world’s most unsightly in the eyes of armchair architecture critics. In recent years however, many historians and preservationists have demonstrated a soft spot for iconic — and sometimes endangered — works of Brutalist architecture such as London’s Barbican Estate, the Orange County Government Center in New York and Yale University’s Rudolph Hall. Some have even warmed to the most hated-on of all Brutalist baddies in North America: Boston City Hall, a perfectly hideous top-heavy fortress that’s done a bang-up job of dodging the wrecking ball in recent years. Washington, D.C.'s J. Edgar Hoover Building, on the other hand, is abhorred across the boards and faces sooner-than-later demolition.
Despite their oft-oppressive appearance, Brutalist edifices are not, in fact, brutal by design although “brutalist” has emerged as something of a catchall term for works of exceedingly odious postwar architecture associated with socialism and/or abandoned alien spacecraft. The term itself is actually materials-oriented, originating from the Le Corbusier-coined term, béton brut — French for “raw concrete.”
Boasting a profusion of raw concrete, Casa Brutale is described by OPA as “lyrical Brutalism.” While OPA’s highly distinctive cliff-side hermitage — a sort of bisected cave house, really — obviously doesn’t call to mind classic concrete behemoths like London’s Trellick Tower or the Geisel Library at UC San Diego, the Brutalist influence is discernible from the moment you descent down the cold, grey staircase.
In addition to concrete-centric modernist architecture, Laertis-Antonios Ando Vassiliou tells Kristin Hohenadel of Slate that the concept home was also influenced by Greek vernacular architecture that’s “wisely integrated in the landscape, more sustainable and ecological than most contemporary architectural solutions” and the work of Tom Kundig, the Seattle-based architect whose work is an exercise in the “generous use of simple, industrial, earthly materials.”
Casa Malaparta, Adalberto Libera’s famed cliff-bound abode overlooking the Gulf of Salerno on the Italian island of Capri, serves as the most direct inspiration for Casa Brutale. OPA describes the home as an “inverted reference to Casa Malaparte, encased and protected by the tender earth that has hosted civilization for millennia.”
As mentioned, Casa Brutale is just a concept with no, ahem, concrete price tag attached at this point. And given that it was specifically designed for Greece, a country in the throes of economic ruin, it may stay a concept for a good long while.
CNBC notes that OPA isn’t completely closed to the idea of carving the home into a cliff of non-Greek extraction although Casa Brutale can only be built into “a particular type of rock, which makes finding the appropriate plot more difficult,” explains Vassiliou. He adds: "We are deeply and only concerned about the future of our country.”
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