EXE studio fuse modern with traditional in this Serbian mountain retreat

Exe studio
Belgrade based Exe studio have recently completed a small but compelling residence on Mount Maljen, near the popular tourist resort of Divčibare in western Serbia. The structure’s two volumes - one black and one white - interlock in a play on opposites
(Image credit: Relja Ivanić)

Good things come in small packages, judging by Belgrade based EXE studio’s design for a nifty mountain retreat near the popular tourist resort of Divčibare in western Serbia.

Tucked into the sloping hillside of Mount Maljen, a pair of contrasting monochrome parts fuse to form a 76 sq m residence, boldly emerging from a backdrop of pine trees and rocky terrain. ‘Through the duality of the house, with two main volumes, the intent was to merge the traditional and the contemporary to create a unique aesthetic and a structure sympathetic to its surroundings,’ explain the architects.

The polarity of parts is expressed in black and white. The contemporary south facing volume captures the dramatic view of the open fields with a grand picture window. Clad in white ceramic tiles that subtly reference the internal function of open plan kitchen, living and dining space, its asymmetric form creates an abstract presence in the landscape.

To the north, the traditional black lean-to volume pays homage to the vernacular. A cut away at ground level creates a veranda and sheltered entrance. Clad in rugged timber shingle, the private areas of the house are separated from the social living space, and they include a bathroom at ground level and an open plan sleeping area at first floor. An external stone stair and patio mitigate site level changes, anchoring the house to its sloped setting.

The inaccessible location and the project's fairly low budget provided a challenge to the construction process, with materials selected for economy, durability and local sourcing. The result is a remarkable game of contrast, the smooth white façade of the modern part, complimenting the textured, wecloming imperfection of local building traditions.  

Wedge shaped volume

The contemporary wedge shaped volume is clad in smooth white ceramic tiles, contrasting the rugged dark shingle of the traditional lean-to form

(Image credit: Relja Ivanić)

A grand picture window

A grand picture window frames the view of the open fields and valley. The first floor sleeping space's more modest opening is shuttered for privacy, true to vernacular tradition

(Image credit: Relja Ivanić)

Modest stone stair

Nestled into the hillside, a modest stone stair and patio mitigate the change in levels, anchoring the house to its mountain setting. The underside of the architectural stair becomes a log store

(Image credit: Relja Ivanić)

The external cladding

The external cladding of ceramic tiles continues internally in the open plan kitchen/living/dining space. Bunkette seating provides a comfortable position to survey the view from the grand picture window

(Image credit: Relja Ivanić)

Subtle internal finishes

The bright and subtle internal finishes allow the views to take centre-stage

(Image credit: Relja Ivanić)


Photography: Relja Ivanić