Page D1.1 . 02 February 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Neighborly Mod

by Kevin Matthews

The Ebeling House in Dortmund, Germany makes a direct challenge to conventional expectations and local taste, and it is equally bold in its reference to modernist minimalism. Is this boldness hostile, or friendly? Does it reward analysis? Does it make a humane place for living?

As I see it, the answers for this pure cuboid dwelling are "friendly," "yes," and "yes." Created by principals Matthias Herrmann, Matthias Koch, and Till Roggel, for client Sabine Ebeling, the house has an exterior as strictly rectangular as those of the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or the Glass House by Philip Johnson. However, the Ebeling House, appropriate to its urban context, is not such an exercise in transparency as those two modern classics.

The Ebeling House is also softer, as the pure form of the all-concrete structure is wrapped entirely with horizontal larch wood siding, slightly lapped. The ruled lines, rough texture, varied color, and progressive weathering of this wood cladding seem to be just enough to give small-scale visual interest to its severely simple overall form.

It looks like a simple wooden box, narrow, tall, and deep, with a few generous openings composed asymmetrically to the edges of the solid, rather than to centerlines of the facades. Though strikingly unique among its relatively traditional pitched-roofed neighbors, this cuboid is not as aloof as it first appears.   >>>

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Ebeling House in Dortmund, Germany, designed by

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Modern wood box in a traditional neighborhood.
Photo: Gernot Maul, Münster/Germany


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