A House That Is a Garden

John Hill
30. October 2019
Photo © Ilya Ivanov

At more than 5,000 square meters, a new residence near Moscow designed by J.MAYER.H and Partners is a clear sign of wealth inequality in the world today. But its size is balanced by a highly commendable tactic of integrating the building into the landscape, in effect fusing the two parts into one.

The house called n.n. is described by Jürgen Mayer H.'s firm as a "layered topography [that] blurs the line separating landscape and construction." This assertion jibes with aerial views of the house, where the curving lines in the garden meet up with the undulating lines of the planted roofs to camouflage the house. To what extent the house merges with the landscape is best explored in a Power of Ten-like zoom from the aerial at top, down into the garden, and then back up again. Readers: Focus on the small terrace in the center of the aerial photo at top, the gray patch where some chairs are barely visible.

The terrace is more prominent in this closer view that is rotated 180 degrees from the above aerial. We can start to see the layering of landscape and house but also the way the undulating lines of the roof have even finder undulations. (Photo © Ilya Ivanov)
Zooming tight to cantilevered terrace and its lounge chairs reveals a skylight to a lower level, undulating metal screens in front of the parapets (their perforations are visible in the shadows cast on the lawn), and a perimeter walkway at the green roof. (Photo © Ilya Ivanov)
A lower view from the house toward the Moskva River makes the layering of landscape and building clear, but also the merging of the two. It's easy to imagine getting up from a lounge chair and walking down the sloped roof directly into the garden that sits buffers the house from the river. (Photo © Ilya Ivanov)
Down in the landscape, at the far corner of the property (lower-left in the aerial above), our view toward the house and the roof terrace (top-center) is of two layered entities: a house and a garden, but unlike any others. The houses in the distance hint at another reality, of more traditional approaches to creating homes on the land. (Photo © Ilya Ivanov)
This last view of the extraordinary n.n. residence — the terrace with chairs still visible, at center-left — makes the distinction between it and its surroundings quite dramatic. Could the approach of J.MAYER.H and its landscape designers happen with smaller sites and budgets? Earth-berm and other houses in other locations point to "yes," but none of them elicit as much attention as the grand n.n. does. (Photo © Ilya Ivanov)

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