Inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, this stylish home near Potsdam, Germany is the product of a stunning renovation of a once-dilapidated property. The waterfront residence is modern and tranquil and boasts an unparalleled lakeside location.
Haus am See was transformed by architect Carlos Zwick into a home that is totally focused on nature. The original site was once a popular destination for its cafe, dock and ballroom, where visitors by the thousands would come via riverboats from the carrier “Weiße Flotte,” to enjoy the stunning location. Located on lake Jungfernsee, the spot is amazingly close to downtown Potsdam, which makes it even more appealing for convenience.
After the facility closed, the plot languished for 25 years, becoming wildly overgrown with the two timber-framed structures were in decay and on the verge of collapse. In fact, the first time Zwick saw the location years before from a nearby estate, he didn’t even take notice, even though he was on the hunt for a great waterfront property.
Eventually, the idea struck and Zwick set his sights on acquiring the dilapidated property, which was quite affordable given its state and location.
Unique Construction Limitations
“It was obvious to me that there was plenty of work ahead, but the more I thought about building a house there for my family – the more mesmerized I was,” he said of the property. Dry rot, leaks and the general crumbling of the buildings had already sent many a buyer running from the location, but not Zwick.
Even more concerning, the authority responsible for the protection of monuments had placed a building limitation of 50 meters from the shore along with the stipulation that the natural waterside lake terraces could not be changed.
In 2014, Zwick purchased the property even though it was not clear that he would be able to get permission to build on the site. He forged ahead with plans for a single-story house with enough space for a large family and an in-law unit.
The fifth time was the charm in his prolonged negotiations with building authorities with the design being finally approved: The new construction renovated the park café and the ballroom and another structure in a way that esthetically removes the gap between the two buildings.
Captivated by the water, he set out to create a design that put the interior as close to the water as possible. The result is a structure where “we are floating above it, eating breakfast, in the living areas and on the 22 meters long loggia. Lakeside, the loggia extends all the way over the width of the house with its glazed railing.“
Floating Above the Land
Constructed on steel posts, the house integrated nature in its architecture and preserves the existing age-old trees. The preservation was achieved by positioning the house in a way that no trees had to be taken down, which led to a tree being integrated into a small atrium.
In fact, the house is built 3 meters above the ground, resting on 10 individual foundations and 40 diagonal posts. The façade is constructed from narrow, vertical larch slats, which helps it meld with the surrounding trees. The whole project presented construction challenges because the big trees ruled out the use of a tower or truck-mounted crane. Ultimately, the entire thing was built using just a mobile telescopic forklift.
On the lake, existing concrete and masonry bank reinforcement was dismantled reconfigured and a floating jetty with a boat mooring was added.
Open and Airy
Despite the living space being so high above the ground and the lake, the loggia is 8 meters above the water, bringing the view of the lake into the home. “At breakfast time you already see gray herons and swans passing by at eye level and in the evening here and there you will see otters waddling through the shallow water,” Zwick explains.
Three open, airy living areas face the terrace and all have access to the outdoor spaces well as a panoramic view of the lake.
The focal point of the house is the large kitchen and dining space. It includes a fireplace, seating area and massive olive wood table, where the family of six children enjoys its meals.
All the rooms have plentiful natural light, which makes the spaces ideal for pursuing arts hobbies like painting.
For possible future changes, the house is designed so that it easily can be divided into three units if necessary.
The design is not only airy, but the flow keeps an open feeling and the windows help blend the interior and the exterior. The bedroom also has a view of the other section of the residence.
The raised positioning of the home is also ideal in that it creates a sheltered area for parking and the storage of bicycles.