paris-based architect jean-pierre lott questions the relationship between nature and culture with the villa troglodyte, a residential project carved out of the natural bedrock of monaco. the grotto as an architectural typology is historically expressive of the human relationship of nature. while the condition first offered a poetic retreat of solitude and repose, it later became a means to regulate and display nature as a spectacle. as humanity’s contemporary relationship with the environment carries a unique, more menacing undertone, the occupied grotto has evolved to introduce both an intentional escape from the reality of its context or, alternatively, a didactic emphasis of this reality.

troglodyte jean pierre lott
all images © loïc thebaud



jean-pierre lott makes use of a subtractive design strategy in the development of the subterranean villa troglodyte. carving out the mass of the natural rock, the design team introduces a fracture spanning the full height of the exterior through which both residents and sunlight can enter, and along which the interior spaces are organized. during the design of the ambitious project, jean-pierre lott questions: ‘how can one carve out a house form a rock, a landscape, without altering it, by respecting its volumes, its fractures and vegetation. the challenge of this project was to fit the house into the landscape by working with rather than against it. thus, the project is built backwards, it is hollowed out of the mass.’

troglodyte jean pierre lott



while the existing, naturally-occurring rock is maintained along the ground level of the villa troglodyte, jean-pierre lott artificially replicates this feature along the exterior using natural, recycled, and locally sourced materials. the ground level is accessed from the street by way of a footbridge which, upon entry, overlooks a subterranean pool below. from the entrance, voids and interior glazing systems offer transparency and a visual connection throughout the entire house. while the project relies on such renewable energy sources as geothermal and solar, the villa’s energy consumption amounts to nearly 40% of that of a typical house based on french thermal regulations. this goal is reached by means of bioclimatic architecture, by the performance of the building’s skin, and maximum penetration and diffusion of natural light.

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project info:


name: villa troglodyte
program: private housing
surface: 500 sqm (5381.96 sqf)
client: JB pastor & fils
architects: jean-pierre lott, atelier raymond
landscape architect: atelier jacqueline osty & associés
structure: E&G
M&E engineer: somibat
electricity: JB pastor & fils électricité
high environmental quality: oasiis
building company: JB pastor & fils
delivery: 2019
photography: loïc thebaud