Casa Mayer

11 February 2009 (Last Updated February 11th, 2009 18:30)

Dupli Casa in Germany blends family archaeology and contemporary architecture. Jürgen Mayer speaks to Christopher Kanal about his first private commission.

Casa Mayer

Jürgen Mayer H's Dupli Casa is as abstract and dramatic as any of the Berlin practice's recent projects, including the An der Alster 1 office in Hamburg. Dupli Casa in Ludwigsburg, south-west Germany, was designed for an industrialist and his family. The villa resembles a surreal sculpture sitting on a perfectly green lawn.

From each different angle, Dupli Casa looks like a completely new building. "It had its own dynamic," explains Mayer. "What we usually do in our buildings is create a sculptural entity and then look at what kind of materials and building construction techniques will realise it."

The three-storey building sits on the footprint of a 1984 house that previously stood on the site. "The design was basically taking the shape of the footprint, duplicating it, lifting it up, rotating it and mediating between the lower part and the upper part," he explains.

Family archaeology

Mayer says he wanted to continue the 'family archaeology' in the new villa through the duplication and rotation of the design. "It was the starting point of the concept, but it echoes the building that was there before," he says. Lifting up the villa creates a semi-public space on ground level between the two layers.

Dupli Casa has a simpler layout than its predecessor, yet its many extensions retain a labyrinthine atmosphere, with unexpected wall turns and the distortion of having different levels opening up to each other – the space between them creating a floor area of 1,190m².

The design establishes connections through its fluidity. The ground floor has cavernous openings that flow smoothly and give an other-worldly, space-like feeling. Mayer turned the middle floor into a public space. The lobby has a big atrium complete with large windows. "The family wanted to have reception rooms," he says. The atrium sits in the centre as a meeting point and a mediator between the different programmatic spaces. The sky-lit vertical space reaches over two floors, building the design elements into a different unit. "The house is so deep we needed light," says Mayer.

"In the house there is a split from public and private," says Mayer. At the top, each bedroom emerges, leaf-like, from the centre of the house. Here the angled windows present dramatic vistas of the surrounding landscape.

"The Dupli Casa villa resembles a surreal sculpture sitting on a perfectly green lawn."

Looking across the valley to Marbach am Neckar, you can make out the austere form of David Chipperfield's Stirling-winning Museum of Modern Literature. "The spatial configurations and the unity of the skin hold it all together," he says.

Outside, the swimming pool and the white surfaces surrounding it provide a flawless reflection. The villa's configuration creates a sophisticated connection between inside and out.

Explaining why the outside is white, Mayer said that the client did not want any colour. "Black doesn't work because of the stucco," he explains. "There would be too much tension."

Dupli Casa details

"Our details are super complicated," says Mayer. "We believe in pushing everything into a surface. When the normal things that buildings should have, like the metal flushing on the roof, are not there, then it makes it a bit more abstract."

And are the German industrialist and his family happy with their new home? "When I originally presented the model and explained to them how the family archaeology works, they were super shocked," Mayer explains. "Over an hour I saw their faces lighten and his wife smiled and said 'that's what I wanted all the time'. This was the reaction I didn't expect but it was great to see them follow a concept and understand the integrity of the relationship between the idea, their own needs and history."