Lithuanian firm Arches have reimagined a rustic farm dwelling into ‘Cedar House’, a two-volume project consisting of a family home and nearby storehouse located in the Regional Park area in Vilnius city county.
Inspired by, among other things, local dog Brownie who greeted them upon first site inspection, the architects’ vision was to synergistically integrate the new volumes into the natural surrounds whilst retaining fidelity to regional design archetypes. Brownie, originally a stray who was cared for by the former site occupants, stayed on after the property was sold, and accompanied the architects as they assessed the site. This inspired them to frame the project within a larger ‘story of the site’, restoring the original buildings but anchoring the design within patterns and histories laid down by the landscape itself. The challenge was to innovate whilst simultaneously taking a restrained and minimalist approach to retain neutrality toward nature.
The project comprised two elements – reconstructing the original buildings within their existing volume parameters but also revitalizing and updating them – one as a modern family home and the other an adjacent storehouse. The site rests on top of a hill surrounded by lush foliage, and the intent was for the buildings to blend with the landscape both in form and function. Park regulations require that traditional architectural forms are preserved, so the building silhouettes and materials echo this, reverently nodding to regional history.
The main residential home on the upper part of the site rests on the foundation of the gently undulating hill, integrating with and anchoring into the landscape; blending with nature rather than dominating it. It is framed at ground level by granite pavement and lawns, and a stone rubble pavement connects it to the storehouse on a slightly lower elevation. The site is loosely bounded by a low wooden fence and the only landscaping beyond the granite and stone are the lawns and a few newly planted pines of the same species already present in the surrounding parklands. The result is a dynamic interplay of natural and built elements and a sense of fluidity and integration across the site envelope.
Both buildings are primarily constructed in pine wood, with cedarwood chip facades. Along with providing a rustic, bark-like finish, such materials are hardy, aligned with traditional forms, and sustainable over the long term. The natural material aesthetic and functionality is continued across interior spaces, with eco-friendly wood wool used for insulation and local clay plaster covering interior walls. These materials optimize both thermal and ventilation systems.
For the main house, large ground level windows and upper level cut-out windows allow nature and light to spill indoors, with copper detailing on windows and doors adding an elegance to the updated structural silhouette. This elegance is further underscored by a human scale addition in the form of a cut-in volume serving as a terrace for inhabitants, offering dramatic sightlines of the valley below and melding viewers into the natural surrounds.
The storehouse matches the main home in form, materials, and contour, but hides windows and glazing, suggesting a profile more geared toward solidity and functionality as opposed to the elegance and liveability themes articulated in the main house. Together, the buildings form distinct yet conversing entities, enticing inhabitants to engage all of their senses in experiencing the magic of the natural location whilst still enjoying functional, modern, and comfortable living.
At a distance, the buildings read like living organisms, local birds resting on the hill. The natural story of the site continues, as does Brownie’s role as superintendent.