Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) or OMA designed the Austrian House on a tiny plot of land that slopes toward the lake in Zell am See, Austria. The site is merely 40-foot-wide (12 meter) and so the challenge was constructing it in a way that it creates subterranean spaces that capture natural light and scenic views. 

Likewise, zoning regulations required a compact, 4-meter-wide structure with a jagged roof above ground and descending the hill. But underground allowances are allowed for additional volume. To address these challenges, OMA, in collaboration with Italian architect Federico Pompignoli, designed the house into four levels. 

A large, mirrored door at the top level serves as the entrance of the Austrian House. This is an open-space floor that’s covered by sawtooth skylights and has a cantilevered terrace that extends outwards.  A curtain divides a sleeping corner which has bathroom amenities tucked into the floor so they don’t obstruct the view.

Meanwhile, transparent resin tiles on the floor allow daylight to seep to the floor below where the family can gather for a more intimate space. Here, a sauna opens up to the living and dining room and further down, are two twin guest bedrooms flanked by plush faux-fur walls. Each room has its own wood-paneled bathroom and adjoined by a double height sitting room that directly opens out to the scenic landscape.

Then the lowest level of the Austrian House is at street level where it hosts a storage space for ski equipment. OMA utilized the narrow spaces effectively by using highly-curated palette of materials and exquisite lighting program to brighten spaces and make them look bigger, and incorporating innovative door mechanism solutions. For example, a two-floor hatch opens to unveil a bath and shower tucked below floor level to preserve the view. A motorized platform in the living space on the third level lifts for access to the cantilevered deck and can also be raised to table height or lowered to serve as conversation pit. 

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Images courtesy of OMA