10 Feb 2022 • Living
A small Czech town boasts a leading example of intuitive, biophilic residential design
Moved to design a fluid living environment for a home in Nový Jičín, Atelier Štěpán drew from classical Greek atrium houses.
Natural light sets the calming flow of the two-storey residence in motion, an element architect Marek Štěpán explains is fundamental to the project. ‘I wanted to try and create an inner disposition in which people can move naturally, where they can swim like a fish in the water,’ he says, ‘the kind of relaxed living where you subconsciously anticipate where everything is.’ This motivation arose from the client’s desire to live in ‘open air’. Navigating the challenges of working with a small plot close to Nový Jičín’s historical city centre, Štěpán and his team set out to create palpable ties between the home and nearby parklands.
Divided into three platforms, the villa’s architecture responds to its positioning on a gently sloped terrain. The designers conceptualized an ‘internal landscape’, one balanced by rhythmic openings to the outside world, like the central, grassy atrium. Simple façades and modernistic geometries hark to the Atrium Displuviatum cited by Vitruvius his Ten Books on Architecture – a structure with no columns, eaves or gutters. The home’s base is constructed from concrete while it’s upper levels sport panels of cross-laminated and locust timber, materials echoed indoors. A recuperation unit with forced ventilation, gas-condensing boiler unit and external solar panels are among the features that ensure the home’s low energy consumption.
Digital inundation, the stressors of urban life and the post-pandemic emphasis on health and wellbeing are among the many reasons why people are increasingly looking for a connection to nature in their homes. While it’s a trend that’s here to stay, biophilic residential design isn’t just about bringing plants into living spaces. Atelier Štěpán’s consideration of the house’s environs – and its allowance of natural light – reflect two important steps to take in nature-focused design processes.
As designer Oliver Heath explained in a late-2020 Ikea x Frame talk, ‘mimicking the colours, materials, textures and patterns found [in nature] can ‘enhance our ability to experience space and connect with others in it.’ The socio-psychological phenomenon of biophilic design that Heath elaborated upon is evidenced with this Nový Jičín home, an exemplary project illustrating the holistic approach modern residential design requires.