The House of the Gallery Owner

The House of the Gallery Owner

Haus Eva Presenhuber

Exposed concrete is not everybody's cup of tea. One likes it, the other one doesn't...

...It is deemed chic, cool, trendy, modern, resistant and practical, but also cold, uncomfortable, gloomy, morbid, desolate and grey.

There is a house which is like an allegory of this polarity. It's the House Eva Presenhuber in the village of Vnà, Lower Engadine. The Zurich based architectural practice of AFGH describes this mountain village as “relatively unspoilt”. This sounds like a place beyond the “spoiling civilization”, yes, as if it was inhabited by people similar to those rare indigenous peoples of the Amazon forest who have never tasted a cola. A place beyond time, inhabited by the “noble savages of the mountains”, so to speak. And then, an internationally successful art gallery owner, of all things, puts her holiday home in this place. A woman who is a citizen of the world and, even worse, of the world of art – art which has long since denied any borders in any way, questioning everything. What a potential for conflict!

Concrete Reconciliation

But the architects tried to defuse the situation architecturally. They had to bridge the divide between the typical local architecture and the modern aesthetic needs of a connoisseur of contemporary art. Let it first be said that they succeeded in reconciling these two poles. The building picks up on the local type of building in many ways. It reminds and quotes, though without copying or imitating, but rather as an abstraction or further development. This all starts with its materiality and outward appearance. As a reminiscence of the local stone buildings, the holiday home consists of autoclaved aerated concrete, and that is inside and outside. The concrete goes so far that it even forms a kind of furniture, comprising the kitchen and fireplace, on the upper floor of the three-storied building.

To increase the cosiness, the living room and bedrooms are clad in plywood panels. Considering the omnipresence of the concrete, this seems absolutely necessary. Even with the plywood panels, the interior still appears pretty uncomfortable. But maybe this is just the right thing for an art gallery owner whose job is to deal with eccentric guys with the ability to make you feel uncomfortable on a daily basis.

Besides the materiality, there are other elements of the local architecture reflected in the building. For instance, it shows deep window reveals or a timber roof truss with a sheet covering. The perforated entrance door reminds of local barn doors. Even the deformations of the houses of the Engadine are quoted by triangular bay windows.

And what became of...

Already since 2007, the holiday home of Eva Presenhuber has been a part of the village of Vnà. There, it fits well into the small mass of houses without betraying itself. An adapted individualist. Moreover, we wonder how the people of Vnà may have treated the gallery owner. Will they simply have gazed suspiciously at the dangerous stranger, or will they, in the spirit of a friendly “spoilage”, even have visited her house, noticing in amazement: “Well, looks rather uncomfortable.”


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M's picture
M 18. February 2015 - 14:15

Brave brutalism. I admire the intellectual statement but I understand why some deem it to be cold and disturbing. Even I would like to see some planting of creepers and flowers to soften it.

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PamelaJackson123456 24. March 2015 - 9:08

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