Design Crime: The Snobbiest House Ever Designed

What’s that I spy below? Hark, the unwashed masses!

You can’t fault the Marks Barfield Architects for trying: Their Villa Hush-Hush is designed to “disappear” into the land while affording the owners panoramic views–thus offering a high-rise lifestyle in even the most historically or ecologically delicate places. It does that by having an entire wing that rises and lowers on a huge metal pylon:

Villa Hush-Hush

The architect seems to have thought this precisely halfway through before firing up the 3-D modeling software. I mean, doesn’t it seem weird to respect a “sensitive site” with a massive squeaking cube occasionally rising over the land” Can you imagine how annoying it would be to live anywhere near this” What happens when the toddler starts pushing the button? Meanwhile, the building is actually the architecture equivalent of lifting your nose and looking down on people. I can’t imagine a better piece of target practice for children packing slingshots and BB guns.

Nonetheless, the architects called in Engineers Atelier One to work out the structural engineering. They’re serious. Two of the house’s four sections could be elevated, and the moving column would be jacked up by a 260-tonne counter-weight lifted by eight 22kW drive motors. (Roughly the output power of a family car.) It would take about five minutes to raise, and three minutes to lower–murder if you wake up in the night to use the bathroom.

Maybe the weirdest thing is that this isn’t the concept of a hare-brained student. Mark Barfield Architects is a fairly talented firm, made famous by the London Eye ferris wheel and some very slick small projects.

For a truly genius piece of kinetic architecture–and the obvious inspiration for the Villa Hush-Hush–check out Rem Koolhaas’s Maison à Bordeaux.

[Via DesignBoom, which has more pics and schematics]


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.