When the owners of a parcel of Swiss countryside wanted to build a getaway villa, they turned to Ali Tayar, a New York architect with a keen interest in the legacies of Modernism. Having worked with the client on a string of other projects over the course of 12 years, Tayar had latitude to explore untested architectural concepts. ‘In many ways, this house is almost a research project,’ he suggests.
Among these experiments was the architect’s use of carbon fibre, a material most often associated with boats. To do this, Tayar travelled to the Isle of Wight, where Gurit, the company that supplied the material, has an office. ‘They have extensive experience of using carbon fibre in boats, so we transferred that knowledge, applying it to architecture,’ Tayar explains. The result is a dark blue volume that juts out from the house. Like a boat, this skin doubles as structure, meaning that it can cantilever without needing columns underneath it.
Even the main volume, which reads as a more standard wood-frame house, explores new approaches to structure. Whereas most modernist villas make use of steel columns to let the facade hang as a skin (as Le Corbusier famously argued for with his Maison Dom-Ino project), with the Carbon Fibre House, Tayar put the façade to work, making even the window mullions carry structural loads. ‘The structural design is a reversal of this modernist idea of transferring structure onto columns to free the mullions from loads,’ he explains. In both cases—the carbon fibre cantilever and the teak volume—Tayar’s design freed the interior spaces from obtrusive columns.
Because he did not have to shape interior spaces around an array of columns, Tayar laid out the interiors without traditional corridors. Instead, he designated those areas that would be considered circulation spaces with lower ceilings, as opposed to high-ceilinged common rooms.
For his part, Tayar considers his approach as a kind of nuanced rebuttal to contemporary formalism, saying, ‘as people get bored of making crazy shapes, this is one way of editing.’