With its street facade pulled out to match the adjacent buildings on the left (west) side, continuing the block's dominant plane, and with its garden facade pulled back to align with the garden facade of the house on the other (east) side, it turns out that the depth-dimension and position of the building is established precisely by a spatial neighborliness.
The height of the box is also carefully calibrated to fit, topped flat just a bit below the ridgelines of the adjacent row of houses. Its narrow width is nicely measured to the rhythm established by the repeating balconies of the neighboring houses.
While establishing a strong bookend for the street facade running left and clarifying the relieving setback in front of its neighbor on the right, the box seems to deftly complete a "courtyard wall" for the overall housing block with a garden interior. One sidewall window opening addresses the adjoining front yard setback space, while providing a long view down the street.
This small urban house seems to have as much open space and variety inside as it has compact simplicity outside. Steps up from a ground-level recessed entry (past a small garage) land with a great sense of arrival up one level in the major living space. This two-story space faces a full-height window which looks out onto the trees of the housing block's garden interior.
Also facing this window is a low tier of full-width steps. They provide casual seating and connect up to the dining and kitchen area, which in turn looks back to the living room. Above the wide steps, the next major level is an open mezzanine, also sharing the great window. Facing the other way at the mezzanine level, an office space, separated by a glass wall, looks southward onto the street.
The main stair, placed halfway back and against the east sidewall, zigzags upward between offset floor levels. At the top level, a bedroom with east-facing glazing occupies the back portion, the bath area joins the stair in the central third, and the front third becomes a semi-enclosed outdoor deck area.
At the roof deck, disappearing flush-hinged wood-clad shutters open for selected views from the terrace. When closed, they give residents complete privacy under the sky. The glazed interior wall of the deck doubles as a south-facing clerestory to flood the stairway with daylight.
The clean white treatment of simple interior forms is classic modern. It fulfills that vision through the natural shading modulation of changing light on the various planes and levels. In these flat-sculpted spaces, the softness of furnishings and human forms will be accentuated by contrast.
Within its tidy box, the house makes thoughtful and appropriate use of the street-facing and garden-facing conditions. Connectedness and privacy, expansiveness and enclosure are all provided along an interior sequence which is vertical and efficient. Modern open spaces, connected inherently by the clarity of overall volume, ultimately lead to an upper retreat with high degree of spatial separation.
The concept of this German cuboid is similar to that of the Azuma House by Tadao Ando, though it's less extreme in both the implementation of the diagram, and the expression of structure. With a footprint of 1033 square feet (96 square meters), compared to the 366-square-foot (34-square-meter) Azuma House, and with an extra floor level, the Ebeling House seems less monastic.
The simple shape of the Ebeling House is very different from its neighbors, but with similar height, materials, coloration, and street frontage, it seems ultimately compatible with them. A neighborhood of such severe cuboid houses would probably feel sterile and lifeless. But one of them as a neighborhood accent, so carefully connected, seems like a fresh draft of cold clear water.
The Ebeling House is rewarding example of a classic (and socially valuable) dense urban housing type being given a minimalist artistic presence, elevating it above housing as usual. It seems to achieve infill with elegance.
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Kevin Matthews is editor-in-chief of ArchitectureWeek.