Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd.

The Soft House site plan is based on the traditional linear polder (farm). It includes parking for bicycles and EV’s, a raised terrace overlooking the new Park lands, and a vegetable garden.

Soft House IBA

Jan Knippers, the Soft House structural engineer, evaluates a full-scale physical mockup of the innovative textile façade twisters.

A set of four live/work row housing units constructed with a traditional and locally made solid-wood structure, it can be completely recycled at the end of the buildings’ life.

The stairwell and ventilation ‘chimney’ pull daylight into the dwellings, providing a dynamic verticality in section and views of the textile infrastructure.

A model of Soft House IBA

The SOFT HOUSE project in Hamburg, Germany is a winning competition entry designed for the International BauAustellung (IBA).

View of the ‘Twisters’ from the upper terrace. Flexible photovoltaics in textile ‘twisters’ are attached to flexible fiber composite boards on the roof, offering shape adaptation for daily and annual seasonal sun tracking.

The Soft House Smart Building System includes a responsive, energy-harvesting façade

The movable curtain is both domestic infrastructure and creates personal microclimates. The interior domestic ‘landscape’ of movable and luminous curtains is playful and engaging by design

LEDs create the Visual Breeze, an ambient interior luminous expression of the wind, one of many programmable modes for monitoring and visualization of the exterior climate.

The design expands the traditional role of the household curtain, creating a new multi-tasking soft infrastructure which can be moved into instant ‘rooms’ that concentrate zones of heating or cooling from the radiant floor.

The design features a traditional all-wood structure that utilizes sustainable soft wood spruce pieces pegged together without glue or nails. On the exterior, the green insulation membrane is revealed through wood slats on the exterior.

A flexible, simple floor plan supports Urban Agriculture (garden plots) and Sustainable Transportation (E vehicle charging).

Ongoing Assessment: The life of the Soft House begins at the close of the IBA exhibition. Performance will be monitored over the next five years to measure energy conservation and learn through this new model for low carbon living.

Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd.
10 Farnham St

IBA Soft House

The SOFT HOUSE project in Hamburg, Germany is a winning competition entry for the International BauAustellung (IBA), a prestigious German building tradition that dates to 1901. Completed in March of 2013, it is a set of live/work row house units which offer a new model for low carbon construction and an ecologically responsive lifestyle that can be personalized to meet homeowner needs. The Soft House demonstrates how domestic infrastructure can become ‘soft’—engaging flexible living concepts, carbon-neutral solid wood (brettstapel) construction, and wireless building controls with responsive and performative textiles which create the public identity of the architecture. Through the conceptual reframing of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ materials and the integration of architecture, mobile textiles, and clean energy infrastructure the SOFT HOUSE transforms the German PassiveHaus typology, offering a more flexible living experience.

The Soft House structure is a traditional solid wood panel and deck construction with wood dowel joints. The wood construction is complimented by flexible solar nano-materials in a lightweight, smart energy-harvesting textile cladding which bends to respond to sun angle or to open views. The textile cladding shades a large glass curtain wall with views to the Parklands. A three-story air convection ‘atrium’ brings daylight deep into the ground floor and modulates the rise and fall of warm and cool air with a system of interior curtains and operable window vents.

LEDs in the movable curtains are playful and engaging—allowing people to make new connections between the domestic and natural environments. The Soft House smart curtain LED lighting system allows for real time monitoring and visualization of outside wind and climate conditions. The solid state light that moves along the Soft House curtain surface in relation to exterior wind levels creates a Visual Breeze— an ambient interior luminous expression of the external environment.


T: 617 442 0800
F: 617 442 0808


Date: 2014
Status: Completed
Client: Internationale Bauausstellung IBA Hamburg GmbH
Location: Hamburg, Germany

Design Team:

Sheila Kennedy FAIA, Principal
Frano Violich FAIA, Principal
Veit Kugel, Dipl Ing, Senior Associate
Kyle Altman, Jeremy Burke, Stephen Clipp, Iman Fayyad, Patricia Gruits, Katherine Heinrich, Heather Micka-Smith, Chris Popa, Shevy Rockcastle, Phillip Seaton, Alex Shelly, Nyima Smith, Sean Tang, Diana Tomova, Sasa Zivkovic

Project Developers (IBA):
IBA Hamburg GmbH (City of Hamburg)

Project Developers (SOFT House):
PATRIZIA Projektentwicklung GmbH

Site Supervision Architects: 360grad+ architekten

Landscape Architects: G2 Landschaft

Structural Engineer: Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering

Climate Planning: Steinbeis Forschungsinstitut für Solare und Zukunftsfähige Thermische Energiesysteme

Heating, Ventilation & Mechanical Engineers: Buro Happold

Soft House Manufacturing Consortium: Global Solar Energy, Inc; Svensson Global, AG; Philips Color Kinetics Headquarters; Philips Eindhoven Lighting; Automatic Devices Company, Inc.; L-tronics, Inc.; Holzbau Merkle; Textilbau Gmbh.

Photographer: Michael Moser