Haus Steinegg

Thurgau, Switzerland
Peter Wigglesworth

Built back in 2005, Haus Steinegg is the first architectural project by Peter Wigglesworth. Although Peter considers himself an artist first and foremost, he is perhaps more renowned for his furniture and lighting designs rather than his architectural work.

The client of Haus Steinegg had long been attracted to an area in Thurgau close to their former home, which was well known to them during country walks. It is situated northeast Switzerland bordering the Bodensee and the Rhine. The clearest aspects of the house are its function as an ordinary family house and its site. It stands on high ground overlooking the river plain of the Thur. The view south from this elevated vantage point is a panorama of mountains. The views to the north, east, and west are to the immediate countryside (farmland and forest).

The house Peter has built is dependent on the site with its existing trees and view. These have given the house clear terms of orientation. This, and the simple functions of the house have determined its internal organisation and outer appearance. Looking at the house from its exposed southern view, the surrounding fields and trees ensure that the house appears relatively small; its size is contextually conditioned.

Haus Steinegg is 6 metres high and built upon utilitarian cellars and services. It is composed of two rectangular blocks divided by a central entrance hall and staircase that can be experienced as a void or space between the two blocks. The southern block, with windows towards the mountains, is one high room containing a kitchen, dining, and living area. The ground floor has views to the north protected by trees and bushes. Here, the children’s bedrooms and bathroom have been located. The upper floor has views to the east and west. The parent’s bedroom and the small living room each have a small external space adjacent to them. These cubic spaces are open to the sky and each is equipped with a shower. Their existence cannot be directly deduced from the outside and are somewhat surprising. When standing in these spaces you are simultaneously inside and outside the house.

To the west of the house there is an outside sitting area protected from the wind by two freestanding walls. The largest of these walls forms a repetition of the divisions in the south facade. The ‘enclosure’ formed by the two freestanding walls includes a small pool and a tree.

The inner shells of the two living areas are made of concrete and brick work. These are plastered and painted. The hall and staircase are exposed site cast concrete as originally planned. There are five apparent materials used in the building; concrete (pre-cast or site cast), stainless steel, white wall surfaces, teak doors/cupboards and dark, and natural stone in the wet areas. There is a certain rawness to this house, which is undoubtedly part of its charm. Peter explains:

The feeling of this space is somewhat similar the exterior of the building due to the materials and light. This is another inside/outside occurrence in the design and provides an interlude between the two living areas.

Most of the spaces in the house have obvious independent functions. The spaces are also the basic requirements of a family so it is in this sense that the house is ordinary. It is a traditional collection of utilitarian spaces. Yet, this house goes beyond utility.

I do not believe that it is inevitable that architecture should be reduced to the identity of separated functional cells. Space, architectural space, has many valuable properties, which are not associated with mainstream functionalism. They lie in the remarkable qualities that space can have and valuable to us in their own right.

In the shop