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Soft House

KVA Matx

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

Soft House

Project Status


Year Completed



1,050 sq. meters


International BauAustellung


  • 360grad + Architekten
  • Structural Engineer: Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering
  • Buro Happold Climate Engineering
  • Landscape Architect: G2 Landschaft
  • Steinbeis Climate Planning
  • Patrizia Development Group

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Project Description


The SOFT HOUSE project in Hamburg, Germany is a winning competition entry designed by the KVA Matx Team for the International BauAustellung (IBA), a prestigious German building tradition that dates to 1901. The IBA Hamburg explores the ‘City in Climate Change’ and the balance of urban growth and climate conservation in the planned ‘leap’ to the Elbe islands just south of Hamburg’s HafenCity district. The IBA Hamburg and the associated International Garden Exhibit (IGA) opens to the public in March, 2013. Over 50,000 visitors each week are expected to visit the IBA/IGA exhibition projects. Please see for information on IBA Hamburg and the Soft House.
The SOFT HOUSE, which completed construction in March 2013, is a set of live/work row house units which offer a new model for low carbon construction and an ecologically responsive lifestyle that can be personalized to meet homeowner needs. The Soft House demonstrates how domestic infrastructure can become ‘soft’—engaging flexible living concepts, carbon neutral solid wood (brettstapfel) construction, and wireless building controls with responsive and performative textiles which create the public identity of the architecture. Through the conceptual reframing of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ materials and the integration of architecture, mobile textiles and clean energy infrastructure the SOFT HOUSE transforms the German PassiveHaus typology, offering a much more flexible living experience.
The SOFT HOUSE brings together an interdisciplinary, international design team which includes KVA MATx, 360grad + Architekten, Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering, Buro Happold Climate Engineering, G2 Landschaft, Steinbeis Climate Planning, the Patrizia Development Group and a consortium of building industry partners. More than 100 IBA partners and 40 private investors are supporting the IBA ‘leap’ across the Elbe and it is anticipated that by 2013 over 1200 new dwellings will be put up on IBA Hamburg’s territory, with an additional 5000 new dwellings projected by 2020.

The SOFT HOUSE responsive façade is the first demonstration of a soft, two axis solar tracking architecture. A pliable, spring-like structure of fiber reinforced composite boards bend to optimize the solar angle of thin film flexible photovoltaics. Daily east west sun tracking and day-light harvesting is achieved with simple winch rotation, drawing upon the region’s local maritime industries. A rich range of dynamic shade and sun lighting effects are generated from a very simple architectural elevation. Adjustments to the responsive façade are made seasonally and daily via the Soft House Building Management System (BMS).
The material transformation of historically ‘hard’ energy infrastructure (such as non-renewable energy and sun-tracking machinery) in the responsive soft façade creates a series of spatial and functional climate layers that are experienced from outside and inside the dwellings. The design establishes a natural ventilation chimney as a central vertical
spatial feature that is experienced in different ways on each floor. Vertical curtains modulate the rise and fall of air in the convection ‘atrium’ while horizontal curtains with LED lighting can be moved to create local thermal micro-climates.

You can find additional information on the SOFT House at our website:
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