The Process: House By The Lake

Home // Design // 15th September 2021

Close to collapse, and 25 years after the Berlin Wall did, House by the Lake (Haus am See for the linguists) is a fantastic representation of tying together nature, history, and modern architecture. We spoke to the brains behind the build, where they ran us through the process of creating this lakeside family home.

What was originally known as the local excursion place to grab an ice cream and/or lemonade – as well as somewhere to don your dancing shoes in the local ballroom – the estate did not present itself to become what it is now. This location in Potsdam, Germany, was quietly screaming out to be restored to its former glory.

The property was often overlooked by Carlos Zwick, but it became the spot where he would build his waterfront family home, no matter how uninviting it seemed. As time went by, the prospect of what could be created here was too much of a draw. Work then began on planning the transformation of these two run-down houses, which were far from inhabitable. Its presence was constant in Zwick’s mind; “It was obvious to me that there was plenty of work ahead, but the more I thought about building a house there for my family – the more mesmerised I was”.

To no surprise, a build like this comes with its fair share of difficulty to turn it into the lakeside family home Zwick thought it should be. The easiest option would have been to completely level the site. But repurposing existing buildings makes it all the more sustainable. It was also essential to keep some of the existing elements of the plot, like the nature preserved emperor terraces. These were given their apt name because Emperor Wilhelm II chose this lakeside spot to enjoy his coffee, and we can see why. But to keep these ancient trees meant to sacrifice ease of access for cranes or towers. Because of this, Zwick had to erect the entire house only using a mobile telescopic forklift (a trade-off we would take every time though when modern architecture turns out like this).

The plans for House by the Lake were drawn up with one simple ethos: the house must respect nature by integrating it into its architecture. This meant leaving the age-old trees to flourish. At a total height of 3 meters, House by the lake fulfils our childhood dreams by becoming a modern treehouse, as it blends into the crowns of the hundreds of years old oaks and chestnuts. This is a testament to the talent of the architects though, as the success of this project gives no hint to its difficulty.

All of this was driven by their simple design philosophy for House by the Lake, centred on nature and simplicity. In this, it’s clear Carlos Zwick Architekten BDA put a tremendous amount of thought into this project not only externally, but internally too.

This lakeside family home stands on 40 diagonal steel stilts with a steel grid supporting the wooden floors, wall, and ceilings, all while keeping the ecological balance. Sustainability has been at the forefront of this project, repurposing previously forgotten buildings. and transforming them into the home of dreams. It again returns to the idea of the adult treehouse, and one that is seemingly floating on the water of the lake below, mastering the nuances of modern architecture.

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Images copyright of José Campos


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