‘the urban tree house’ to inject green life into vienna’s grayscale 16th district 


a former working class area, vienna’s 16th district is infamous for its congested setting devoid of green spaces. 

just looking at the air, locals can spot the district’s grayness against a vividly green backdrop. in light of that, and with redensification in mind, smartvoll architects have chosen this district as their site for ‘the urban tree house’ proposal — envisioning a converted loft that emerges vertically from its surroundings, framed on all sides by trees and green walls. 

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all renderings © smartvoll



keeping it 50/50: balancing intimacy and openness 


smartvoll (see more here) conceived its design as one that harmonizes with the surrounding ‘gründerzeitera’ buildings dominating the district. but instead of the classic ‘gründerzeit’ loft conversion, ‘the urban tree house’ presents itself as a green haven with a translucent white facade, sprawling across three stories and 130 square meters. 


the architects suggested taking out the roof truss, revealing a staircase and two high firewalls. in most redesigns, a space like this would have been built up and filled in. for this proposal, however, smartvoll only converted 50 percent of the attic area into indoor space. the rest remains open, creating room to breathe and an interplay between intimacy and exposure, between seeing in and looking out, between nature and the surrounding buildings. 

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An interconnected design that promotes biodiversity 


the first floor holds an office, an open kitchen, and a living room, while the second level accommodates a bedroom that frame a unique view also seen from the adjoining bathroom where a glass pane separates the interior from an expanse of green. that said, the true centerpieces of the project are the open kitchen envisioned as a hybrid outdoor-indoor space and the glazed ground floor that can open up on all sides in summer for gatherings and outdoor play. 


‘here at smartvoll, we don’t see interior design and architecture as separate entities; they are interdependent, and we consider every aspect of their relationship at every stage of the work. particularly in the case of ‘the urban tree house’, this approach creates an exceptional atmosphere and a building that evokes the feeling of a walk in the park.’

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on the larger impact of such ‘vertical’ green spaces, smartvoll’s christian kircher concludes with the following: ‘not only does the urban climate benefit from green buildings like this, but so does biodiversity. […] buildings like our urban tree house provide a habitat not just for people, but for plants and animals as well.’

the urban tree house green mass not building mass 4the urban tree house green mass not building mass 1




project info:


name: the urban tree house

location: 16th district, vienna, austria 

total area: 130 sqm 

architecture: smartvoll


designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom