Cedar House by Studio Arches

This inspiring wooden retreat located in Vilnius, Lithuania, has been designed in 2020 by Studio Arches.

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The first time we visited the area with its owners, we were greeted by “the real owner of the area” – a confident, calm, brown-colored dog. Some time ago, this dog was lost and found shelter at the former owner’s house. It took a little amount of care to him to stay here. The owners sold their house, moved away, but the dog stayed loyal to the place. He stayed here during the period of construction, patiently waited for the inconvenience to end… Not only the owners changed, but the all site as well. Although, he stayed loyal. Nowadays, he still greets visitors to the site. Holding his head up he takes care and protects the place. It seems that the new place fits him as well as the former one. Today, he is named Brownie – a beloved and well-known dog in the area. A true story that inspired not only us. We fell in love not only with this place, but it’s spirit as well. It was a start point where the sensitive designing of architecture started.

The site is located in the area of Regional Park, Vilnius city county. The project is a reconstruction of the old building, maintaining its former site, bearing in mind all of the former building parameters. The main aim is to revive the abandoned building by creating a new quality and aesthetics of architecture. The former buildings were located in an astounding and picturesque landscape, on the top of the park’s hill. In such a context, the decision of subtle integration of architecture to the unique landscape seemed like the only proper option. Regulations of the park protect and preserves the forms of traditional architecture, so it is clear that buildings attribute to this as well. The silhouettes and materials of buildings are traditional. Two separated volumes of buildings are being designed. The main residential house is located in the upper area of the site while the storehouse sits on the lower part. The building is surrounded by granite pavement combined with a lawn in order to integrate into such a natural context. The storehouse is connected to the main residence with pavement made of stone rubble. A low wooden fence acts as a subtle boundary of the site. There are no man-designed greenery and plants’ compositions, only some newly planted pines, which continues the undergrowth of former pines.

The buildings reflect the calm, steady culture of architectural design. The main building volume integrates into the hill and is being partly undercovered by it. It has no aim to dominate after nature. All of the dynamic and natural landscapes are being preserved. Such a relationship gives a feeling of sensitivity and plastic. A human scale is also being evaluated. A cut in volume is made for the terrace and it adds additional elegance to the architectural silhouette. This terrace gives the ability to observe the valley and surrounding nature.

The warehouse is even more solid. It also reassembles the silhouette of traditional form. Although here, in contrast to the main building, all of the windows and glazing are being hidden. By using the same materials and aesthetics to both of the buildings, the interaction between them is created.

The facades are made from natural cedarwood. This material is traditional and reliable – not only it gives long-lasting protection, but it is sustainable as well. The detailing of the windows and doors are made from copper. To conclude, only exceptionally ecological and sustainable materials are being used in the whole project.

The construction of buildings is made from pine wood. For heat isolation, natural wood wool is used. The inner walls are covered with clay plaster. Clay plaster is a local material that is great for preserving a certain microclimate needed. Proper ventilation is being implemented by the natural ventilation system.

Minimal interventions to an existing structure, high quality of architecture, and innovative design create the high value of the building while maintaining neutral to the natural context. The architecture invites to feel, see, hear, smell, and touch the beauty and greatness of nature.

Architects do have a lot of belief and faith for their visions to come true. We are glad that it seems to have happened this time. A story of the site continues – this time the buildings act like birds who stopped on the hill to take a look while the guard dog – Brownie – is protecting and keeping an eye on them.

Photography by Norbert Tukaj

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- by Matt Watts