kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland

Haus Balma by Kengo Kuma Architects

 

In his latest photo series, Paul Clemence takes us on a visual journey through Haus Balma in Vals, Switzerland, designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Nestled in Vals, at the base of the Graubünden Mountains, the project, including a residential and commercial building, features a transparent exterior with alternating wooden and stone slabs. The building was commissioned by Truffer AG, a family-owned business with expertise in crafting processed Valser quartzite stone slabs. Their main objective was to seamlessly blend the structure into the traditional mountain village, ensuring that it complements the natural surroundings rather than standing out as a foreign entity.

 

The design incorporates different materials such as wood, metal, glass, and Valser stone. The stone itself serves as a vital link between tradition and modernity, creating an atmosphere of harmony with its surroundings. Clemence’s photo series beautifully captures the delicate balance between the old and the new, showcasing the integration of natural elements and contemporary architecture.

 

‘One of the principles of our philosophy is to create harmony between architecture, nature and the environment. Therefore, at the beginning of a project, we always deal thoroughly with the local conditions and the special history and tradition of a place. To get to the architectural design and form, we’re looking for an element that ties all these things together and then try to get them in the right balance,’ explains Yuki Ikeguchi, a Partner and The Executive Vice President of KKAA Paris.

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland
the building interacts with nature and pays homage to the charm of the Swiss mountains | all images captured by Paul Clemence

 

 

step into the house Balma, through the lens of Paul Clemence

 

In 2012, Kengo Kuma started designing Haus Balma, and after a decade, the project finally reached its completion in 2022. The lower levels of the building accommodate offices, while the upper floors include two spacious apartments. The building’s design draws inspiration from the geometric attributes of a triangle, evoking the essence of a traditional Asian pagoda. This architectural choice is not only influenced by the architect’s heritage but also harmonized with the property’s shape and seamlessly integrated into the fabric of a traditional mountain village.

 

In this construction, stone, wood, and glass take center stage, serving as the prevailing elements. These materials and construction techniques pay homage to the local tradition all the while offering a modern expression of design. Paul Clemence captures the interplay of colors, where stone roofs and curtains adorned with stone and wood panels create a playful fusion with the surrounding historic stables, further enhancing the building’s natural connection to its scenery. ‘Viewed from a distance, Vals with its stone-shingle roofed houses looks as if stones are floating over the valley. We wanted to take up this image in a special architectural detail,’ shares Kengo Kuma.

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland
Kengo Kuma’s design seamlessly blends into the fabric of the traditional mountain village

 

The architects were inspired by the initial sight of floating stones above the village, which sparked their creativity to explore an interplay between the lightness and heaviness of the stone. Canopies stretch around the building, adorned with old Vals tradition and craftsmanship, appearing heavy and immovable, representing centuries of construction expertise. To ensure a seamless visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces, the design team opted for stone and wood elements to dominate the inside of the building as well.

 

The basement serves as a versatile space meant for meetings and, at times, doubles as a cultural venue hosting exhibitions, concerts, and events. The ground level serves as a reception, work, and meeting area. The room features rough, split wall panels, while the floor and long table are made of wood. The reception desk follows a triangular shape with precise stone boards.

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland
achieving harmony between architecture, nature, and the environment

 

We deliberately didn’t want the spatial organization to be hierarchical, but instead to create a central cavity that unifies everything: This is what became the staircase, which runs from the ground floor to the upper floor. The design of a uniquely proportioned, narrow and high room should create the feeling of being inside a quarry,’ says Yuki Ikeguchi.

 

The staircase provides a contrast to the spacious rooms. Running diagonally through the building, the narrow, high staircase resembles a gorge or quarry, adding a distinctive touch to the architectural design. It is crafted from solid stone blocks, leading to the upper floor where the two apartments are situated. The rugged and unusual rock blocks stack up to the skylight, which offers a glimpse of the sky. 

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland
in total, there are 882 stone and 501 wooden panels

haus-balma-switzerland-kengo-kuma-tradition-modernity-designboom-18000

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland
the facade performs a great balance between lightness and heaviness

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerland
the narrow staircase resembles a gorge or quarry and comes in juxtaposition with the spacious rooms

kengo kuma blends tradition with contemporary elements for haus balma in vals, switzerlandin the ‘sunken garden’, the plants align themselves with the natural light, climbing on a lime/gypsum wall

haus-balma-switzerland-kengo-kuma-tradition-modernity-designboom-218000

an abundance of stone elements can be admired within the interior

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