Lyon 1 Head

house in the garden

House in Lyon

In the hilly garden, originally the setting for a tiny temporary chalet, a French family with young children wished to construct a more durable home. Inspired by the publication of our House No. 19 project in a French magazine, they commissioned us to design a timber house around a small pine tree ("the bonsai"); the clients asked for a sturdy yet unconventional place to live for themselves, their many books and their art and design collections.

location: Charbonnières-les-Bains (F)
design: 2005
realisation: 2006
structural engineer: Pieters Bouwtechniek Utrecht, Jaap Dijks
contractor: Christian Dörschug with local contractor for foundation and installations
photography: Moritz Bernoullly
Lyon 4 Drawing Situation


Lyon 2 Site 1


The starting point for the design was the simple volume of House No19 that was doubled, stacked and sculpturally modified according to the topography of the site, the intended use and the existing trees. Within the one long articulated space of the ground floor there are different spaces, each of which has its own character and proportions: a wide living room with a high ceiling, windows on all sides, a large skylight and folding windows that can be completely opened to the garden; a small and narrow library-space with direct views to the "bonsai tree" and a generous, functional kitchen and dining room.

Lyon 3 Zoom 1
Lyon 3 Zoom 2
Lyon 3 Zoom 3
Lyon 6 Construction 1
Lyon 6 Construction 2
Lyon 6 Construction 3
Lyon 6 Construction 12
Lyon 6 Construction 10
Lyon 6 Construction 11

The prefabricated timber elements were assembled on site within a week, by an international collaboration between a local contractor and a team of specialized carpenters. The largest building element, the southern façade of the first floor, acts as one load-bearing truss.

Lyon Plan 0
Lyon Plan 1
Lyon Section
Lyon 5 Zoom

In the surrounding suburb the use of shutters is widespread. Even though the architectural language of the house clearly contrasts with the neoclassical conventional building style usually found in the neighbourhood, essential, traditional elements such as shutters have been incorporated in the design.

Lyon 8 Interior Living
Lyon Kitchen

The construction consists of solid timber panels used for walls, floors and roof, which were assembled on site within a few days. For the outer skin, imported European larch wood treated with natural stain was chosen. The sliding and folding shutters are integrated in the thickness of the timber cladding, with their "parking spaces" providing subtle accents of colour in the monochrome façade.

Lyon 13 Interior Stair 1
Lyon 13 Interior Stair 2
Lyon 9 Interior Living
Lyon 11 Interior Living

The cantilevering upper floor, another long and narrow volume, is placed along the cross-axis on top of the lower volume and creates covered outdoor spaces on either side of the ground floor. The children’s rooms are small and simple and share a wide corridor to play in; the bathroom has direct access to a roof-terrace, and the master bedroom offers both privacy and spectacular views of the surroundings.

Lyon 10 Interior Hall Way
Lyon 12 Interior Bedroom
Lyon Bedroom

The piece of wallpaper behind the bed is all that remains of the former holiday home on the site. It has been placed into the new house as complete element, along with the wall behind it.

Lyon 2 Site 3
Lyon 16 Bottom