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.

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 Dipling, 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

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