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Small wonder: this weekend house in historic Ljubljana is a neat essay in shrink to fit.

At a mere 43 sq m (about the size of a large studio flat in London), this compact dwelling lives up to its name as the XXS House. At first sight, it looks like another exercise in Japanese architectural bonsai, but is actually thousands of miles from Tokyo, in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. Straddling the Alps and the Balkans, Slovenia is proving to be surprisingly fertile soil for young architects and this house by Aljosa Dekleva and Tina Gregoric shows a finesse and inventiveness beyond their years.

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The site lies in the historic centre of Ljubljana, in a neighbourhood that during the Middle Ages supplied a nearby monastery with fresh produce. Its tight, urban matrix of low rise houses with big pitched roofs, each with a long strip of garden, is now a protected area, with all the accompanying proscriptions on the shock of the new. The task of Dekleva Gregoric was to shoehorn living, sleeping and dining functions into an extra small volume, its tight dimensions dictated by local building regulations. In a neat inversion of the usual rural holiday home brief, the house is for a couple who usually reside in the countryside and wanted a city pied-a-terre.

As the house faces north, the challenge was to bring in direct and indirect sunlight into the ground floor. The architects started out with a conventional monopitch roof, so the structure originally resembled a barn, but by kinking and cranking the roof profile slightly, the attic space is opened up for habitation as a sleeping floor, and an array of glazed rooflights lets the light pour in, seeping down into the ground floor through the staircase void.

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In its utterly plain geometry, the new house is clearly an abstract riff on its historic neighbours. A crisp seamlessness prevails, with roof and walls clad in a taut skin of fibre cement panels neatly inset with flush glazing. The exposed fixing bolts are a very faint whiff of Wagner's Post Sparkasse in Vienna, not so far away over the Alps, but there is also a more contemporary sobriety and clarity in the exposed concrete walls, beautifully boardmarked, terrazzo work surfaces and grey felt carpets. The staircase is sculptural but precipitous, ingeniously fabricated from welded steel plate that zig-zags down from the upper floor like a piece of folded paper or a concertina. Yet it impinges very lightly on the precious space of this simple and delightfully urbane pied-a-terre. C.S.

Architect

Dekleva Gregoric Arhitekti, Ljubljana

HOUSE, LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA

ARCHITECT

DEKLEVA GREGORIC ARHITEKTI

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Article Details
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EXSL
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:437
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