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Smart Material House

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Project Name

Smart Material House

Project Status



13,950 sq. feet

Construction Cost



  • Heiko Krech
  • Philipp Raum
  • Lukas Weder
  • Michael Bölling
  • Sebastian Ernst
  • Jonathan Kleinhample
  • Charlotte Krefeld
  • Structural Engineer: Fachgebiet Entwerfen und Konstruieren Massivbau—Mike Schlaich
  • Transsolar Energietechnik—Matthias Schuler

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Project Description

Affordable Housing
Barkow Leibinger

Site Wilhelmsburg, a lower-income commu­nity outside Hamburg, Germany, in a new master plan that includes housing and parks.

Program Six flexible, affordable housing units in a four-story building—units range in size from a 968-square-foot loft to a 1,830-square-foot live/work unit.

Solution This multifamily housing project was selected for construction after winning a locally sponsored international building exhibition. Seeking to combine performance with space-shaping potential, the designers selected prefabricated, lightweight concrete walls and glue-laminated fir decking as a starting point, and then set out to explore the system’s formal and spatial possibilities. The solid wall panels, with their gentle concave curves, are multi­tasking elements—they function as structural supports, perimeter walls, and thermal insulation, so the bearing structure remains exposed both inside and out. They can be used in single- and multi-story structures: In the latter, the concrete wall elements can overlap and stagger as they stack on each other, creating a structural frame as well as generating a highly articulated exterior and a variety of room configurations.

“It is intriguing research,” Steven Ehrlich said, noting his satisfaction at seeing a research-driven project produce interesting, formal results, though he did have reservations about the “strange juxtapositions between the wall sections and these plates on which they’re sitting. I admire how the different qualities of outdoor spaces are dancing on the façade, but I feel that this very strong form on the interior is going to be incredibly complex and problematic to live with.” But juror Joan Soranno felt differently: “That’s actually part of the appeal for me—the juxta­position of these very horizontal thin plates with this series of concave, precast units. What drove me to this project is the juxtaposition of those two elements in a really simple way, and how the precast elements interact with light.”
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