Atrium Architects’ angular Moscow retreat rests atop a pine-forested hilltop.
When Atrium Architects received a brief for their most recent single-family dwelling, the request was brief: a contemporary piece of architecture. Presented with such a blank canvas, the architects looked to the site to inform their plans; a hilltop located west of Moscow, surrounded by towering pines and granting beautiful views to the south, east and west.
Atrium started with a basic concept – a plane, folded four times almost like a scroll to create the roof, north wall, floor of the main level and a section that rises partway up the south wall. This half wall turns into the interior of the house to serve as a platform separating the first and second storeys. From the west, this folded plane resembles a massive, angular capital G, with the first and second storeys nestled inside. The roof and walls deviate from the perpendicular, giving the house the overall look of a geometric puzzle.
To this foundation, the architects introduced variations to create unique spaces both inside and out, with public areas flowing seamlessly into private spaces. The most stunning of these dominates the southern facade. The middle section of the rising wall projects straight out from the house like a tongue, rather than curling upwards, to define a massive terrace partially recessed into the house, and sheltered by the cantilevered roof two storeys above.
The terrace is backed by a wall of glazing, a full two storeys in height, that bisects a rectilinear stone-clad chimney. This chimney houses two fireplaces back to back, one facing out onto the terrace and the other facing inward, creating the focal point of the double-height great room. The stone flooring around the interior fireplace matches that of the terrace visible through the wall, creating a continuity between indoors and out.
The exterior cladding matches the wall finishes inside, extending this dialogue. The chimney is stone-clad on four sides and where walls are clad in wood on the exterior, they’re clad in wood on the interior. Wide-plank wood flooring throughout the living areas matches the tones used on walls inside and out.
A garage and a Russian bath, situated close together at a remove from the house, continue the folding theme and use the same exterior finishes and oblique angles. The Russian bath is lowered into the landscape, hiding it from the view of the house and permitting access to the roof, which doubles as a viewing platform. In the winter, this deck can even be used as an ice rink.