This Private Home Puts a Twist on Traditional Mountain Style

Mountain House is the aptly named family home delivered by Studio Razavi on the slopes of the authentic and stringently preserved mountain village of Manigod, France. Over the course of the two-year build, Studio Razavi took on the delicate task of designing in the shadow of the Alpine valley’s strict building regulations, ultimately delivering the clients’ desire for a contemporary building in the thoroughly traditional area. It’s a challenge that we’ve seen Studio Razavi overcome with flair before, thanks to the studio’s “rigorous understanding of existing relationships between technique and culture.”

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Exterior lit at night.

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Architects fought to include the boldly large windows in the final living room design.

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The kitchen takes up the remaining part of the living room floor space.

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Roof terrace providing astonishing Alpine views.

The larch cladding, concrete ground floor exterior, and overhanging stacked structure of the 200 sqm property all nod to the traditional building style of the area, but Alireza Razavi from Studio Razavi has incorporated strikingly large windows, a spacious terrace, a minimalistic interior design of natural wood, monochrome tones, and warm contemporary lighting design. This 5 bedroom house strikes a balance between tradition and modernity, all without falling foul of the local regulatory body.

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Spacious bathroom.

We caught up with Alireza to discuss the challenges of keeping creative design in line with traditional values.

THE PLUS: The house is in a preserved Alpine valley – what sort of restrictions did you face in the design?
Alireza Razavi:
Guidelines allowed for very little freedom of architectural expression. Everything from building height/width ratio to roof slope, via building material and window sizes are strictly controlled to enforce what is locally perceived as patrimony protection but de facto creating camp architecture, endlessly mimicking traditional mountain homes.

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Double Bedroom

TP: And what brief were you given by the clients on top of this?
AR:
The clients had a specific wish: introduce a contemporary sensitivity to mountain architecture. They have a keen interest in art, and it was important to them that this building be experienced as a work that conveys meaning. 

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Bunk beds are included for family living.

TP: So how did you decide to act upon that?
AR:
We introduced modern applications to traditional elements of mountain homes, and tried to draw upon ancestral ideas (such as overhangs) to respond to those needs.

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The designers included art pieces to create a cohesively aesthetic interior.

TP: So the concrete ground floor, for example?
AR:
Ground floors were traditionally destined for animals and equipment. They were built in stone both to be more durable against wear and tear, and to provide a rigid base. Our approach was similar in terms of purpose and materials, only adjusting to current needs – so, for example, stone became concrete.

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Intimate bedroom containing integrated reading lamp.

TP: And the interesting variation in the direction of the wooden cladding?
AR:
Traditionally, wood facing could run in different directions for a variety of reasons, and because we wanted to strictly express volumetric variety, we applied a similar strategy. 

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The reduced colour palette creates a tasteful colour scheme.

TP: What kind of materials did you use?
AR:
The stone used on the entrance floor is a locally sourced stone, roughly cut on site. As the entrance needs to cope with ski equipment, the essential criteria here was durability. Bathroom floors and walls are tiled, and all other wood used throughout the building is larch, again locally sourced.

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More integrated domestic features – here, a modest study space.

TP: The interior is nicely spare; what was the inspiration behind the look? 
AR:
Mountain lodges are historically sparse, and we wanted to hold on to that. It is about creating warm interiors with simple materials, and letting the magic happen. The views do help! 

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View across two bedrooms and corridor.

TP: We frequently see bold design choices in your studio’s work; how did your style fit in with the tight regulation?
AR:
In this instance (and for local authorities) having large openings was deemed too bold, disrespectful towards tradition. This was quite hard to figure out, as the arguments that were presented to us did not really make sense, neither aesthetically nor technically. So we pressed forward with it and got approval.

TP: Were there any other areas where you met regulatory resistance?
AR:
Concealing the load-bearing structure also seemed to go against the local grain, but we argued that this was integral to our design as we wanted to emphasize the expression of volumes and provide more fluid spaces. 

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View from the living area, including dramatic cross beam.

TP: It’s a dream location – where would your ideal home be, and what style and features would it have? 
AR:
The ideal home is a place in which you feel sheltered, and which establishes a specific relationship to the outside, ideally nature. So it could really be anywhere. There is something to be said about smaller homes and, in my experience, they have always provided a greater sense of place, of belonging. 

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Detail of living room window.

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Wood burning stove and stylised log stools.

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Unique features like this deer’s head nod to local culture.

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Second bathroom continues the design’s use of locally sourced larch.

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Wood-clad stairwell spanning the building’s three storeys.

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Wood cladding throughout, including this landing, creates a warm and comfortable atmosphere.

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Exterior detail.

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Entrance to ground floor.

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Equipment room inside ground floor entrance, used to store coats and skis.

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The ground floor is traditionally made from stone; concrete is used here as a modern update.

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The architects played with contrasting directions on the external larch cladding.

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Mountain House exterior from below.

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The house is situated on the steep slopes of this traditional French Alpine village.

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Its undeniable traditional influences are visible when comparing it to neighbouring houses.

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The broad building takes advantage of its width, using wide windows.

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The overhang of each storey is another traditional feature that has been preserved.

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Mountain House exterior, for comparison with neighbouring home.

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TECHNICAL DRAWINGS
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Photography by Olivier-Martin Gambier & Simone Bossi.

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