Inspired by music and the shape of a single sound wave, the Ubud, Indonesia-based German architect Alexis Dornier completed a sculptural, two-storey, concrete house in the Balinese countryside with a dramatic, undulating roof.
Located in the village of Mas, about six kilometres south of Ubud, the three-bedroom residence (which goes by the moniker “House O”) was commissioned by a classical composer and musician who wanted a home that would harmonise with the local landscape, with interiors that provided acoustics conducive to music-making. The owner is a frequent traveller and when he’s away from Ubud, he opens the house to others as an artist residency.
“I love music,” says Alexis, who relocated from Berlin to Ubud in 2013. “So this project was extremely exciting and a great opportunity to merge the two things I most love: music and architecture.” He also considered the tranquil tropical vegetation, the surrounding paddy fields, and the local carpentry and wood carvings, weaving in architectural aesthetics to contextually complement the site and the local culture.
Alexis enjoys collaborating with artists and was excited to design a home for a classical composer. “In this case, the client gave us total freedom,” he says. “The design emerged from a desire to translate the construct of a single sound wave into an overarching architectural gesture that would define the interior and exterior spatial qualities of the house.”
The stability of the wave form resulted in a highly organic structure capable of being free from excessive foundational support. The warped roof was designed with a hyperbolic surface and, together with the minimalist shell of the house, amplifies the panorama of the verdant landscape outdoors.
“The client wanted to feel as if he were living within an instrument, so together we brainstormed what shape this would take,” says Alexis. This idea guided the embracing form of the interiors. Like graceful waves, the ceiling dips down above the dining area, above the bedrooms, and along the edge of one length of the upper level to merge with a series of steps that lead down to the ground level.
The upper level includes a 1,600sqft loft-like space that boasts expansive views of the lush countryside, green rice paddies and coconut trees. For the floor plan and elevation, Alexis adapted a straight line into a curve so the property becomes a multiplanar space, with a ground plane and roof that are directly intertwined through the entrance stairway. The curved section of the ceiling on the first and second levels creates a strong sense of fluidity within. “The house consists of a series of manipulated lines, resulting in bowl-shaped areas and warped planes that create spaces of intimacy, of openness, and a combination of both,” explains Alexis. The rhythmic downward curves also improve the acoustics throughout the house.
Alexis’s material and colour choices marry tropical modernism and industrial influences. A palette of neutrals and pastels creates a contrast between the house and its green environment; these gentle shades also complement the house’s unusual form to evoke a sense of levity and dynamism. The ceilings are clad in long, thin strips of dark wood to echo the aesthetics of piano keys while also bringing a strong sense of visual cadence to the interiors. The juxtaposition of dark, warm wood ceilings and floors with light-coloured, cool concrete walls results in living and sleeping areas that are raw and minimalistic, yet also cosy and womb-like.
According to Alexis, the most challenging aspect of this project was requesting that his contractors go out of their comfort zones and stretch their skill sets during the construction process. “I had to give the construction team pep talks and remind them that that anything is possible with creativity and persistence,” he recalls. “For this project, my contractor did a marvellous job, and I was inspired by the flexibility and positive attitude he and his team brought to the table.”
Photography: Tommaso Riva