Under the Star Game Reserve / Martin Cenek Architecture

Architects: Martin Cenek Architecture
Area: 1910 m²
Year: 2022
Photographs: Marek Jehlička, Martin Cenek
Manufacturers: BoConcept, TON, B&BItalia, Brokis, Catalano, Egoé, ISAN, MASKOP99, Moooi, Novatop, Zucchetti
HVAC Engineer: Ondřej Zikán
Electrical Engineering: Petr Bürger
Landscape Engineering: Tomáš Sklenář
Co Author: Tomáš Minarovič
Structural Engeneering: František Denk
Plumbing Engineer: Tomáš Balažovič
Fire Protection Engineer: Jindřiška Hüttnerová
City: Prague 6
Country: Czech Republic

Under the Star Game Reserve, designed by Martin Cenek Architecture, revitalizes a challenging plot along Libocká Street in Prague. Positioned near the historic Hvězda Game Reserve, the site features a dramatic 14-meter elevation difference, characterized by a near-vertical sandstone cliff. The project’s minimalist design integrates seamlessly with the surrounding natural landscape and urban fabric, incorporating elements like cyclopean concrete walls and sleek metallic profiles to create shadows and enhance the living spaces’ ambiance.

Libocká Street, which borders the historic Hvězda (Star) Game Reserve on the north side and slopes down from Petřiny to Libocká Pond and Litovický Creek, is initially unwelcoming. The south side is defined by fragmented original terraced housing and remnants of grand suburban villas from the late 19th century. The northern edge is characterized in part by a terrain break and a downward slope.

Just above the point where the street turns and slopes sharply toward the Church of St. Fabian and Sebastian in Liboc, there is a large, intriguing plot of land that was once almost impenetrably overgrown. This plot has several atypical features, including a significant height difference of up to fourteen meters between the street and the base of the Star Nature Reserve wall on the south side. Moreover, a near-vertical sandstone cliff, eight to ten meters high, divides the land about halfway down.

The position of the houses was determined by a desire to appropriately integrate with the existing fabric and composition of buildings in an area with a rural character, where houses wind along the street and follow the terrain’s contours. The proposed trio of houses reflects typical local forms in shape, size, and roofs with ridges oriented parallel to the street. The prominent exposed sandstone mass significantly influenced the positioning of the buildings and the overall urban design, similar to the historical formation of rural settlements. Each house is rotated in relation to the others, responding to the rock wall that backs them to the south. Through ongoing dialogue with clients and authorities, the minimalist form of the houses was developed.

Under the star game reserve / martin cenek architecture

The roofs of the two outermost houses were designed as hipped to soften the overall mass. The rock wall is visible through the widening gaps between the buildings. The street-facing front of the buildings has a more urban character, with stone paving and newly planted trees, while the steeply sloping garden on the cliff above the houses retains a wild quality, utilizing the original mature vegetation. This garden is bounded by the wall of the Star Game Reserve.

All three buildings appear visually elevated one story above the ground floor, creating the effect of white, archetypal abstracted masses floating above a smaller, distinct ground floor footprint. The material palette includes plain white lime plaster, natural timber, white perforated corrugated sheet metal, and glazing. These materials are complemented by galvanized steel details and grey-painted timber street fencing on the exterior.

The elevated position of the houses, with one entire living floor in contact with the rock wall and views of Liboc and the distant Šárka rocks, necessitated windows facing north toward the busy narrow street to frame these vistas. The seemingly random composition of different window types and sizes on the street façade serves this purpose—frameless glazing captures views of the Liboc church or the horizon dominated by Divoká Šárka’s nature. The garden façades of the houses are fully open to the countryside with large frameless windows.

All three structures feature two regular residential floors and an attic. The bottom floor serves as the entrance for the two houses, while the middle apartment building houses common facilities and provides access to the central exterior staircase. Along with the elevator, this staircase serves the entrance floors of the residential units, which include two duplexes and two penthouses. The investor’s family villa stands out with a distinct garden area, where the main house is accompanied by an indoor pool and an outdoor kitchen, both with vegetated roofs, creating a terrace between them.

Staircases are essential elements in all the houses. In the client’s house, a spiral monolithic reinforced concrete staircase connects all floors and offers a vertical view through the entire home. Conceived as a massive sculpture, this in-situ staircase has a significant presence and is visible from the street through the glazing of one of the two loggias on the facade. It features an extremely subtle handrail made of bent, welded, and lacquered white bar steel. In contrast, the smaller family house has a lightweight, white-painted steel staircase with a subtle welded zig-zagging structure. The middle apartment building features an exterior steel staircase with grating treads, providing contact with the massive rock wall while ascending.

The interiors of all the houses are designed with similar elements: exposed concrete surfaces, white plaster, oak floors, and built-in furniture combining white paint and natural oak veneer. The service area floors are tiled with hexagonal mosaic in two shades of grey, and the walls of all bathroom spaces and the indoor swimming pool in the investor’s house are finished with light grey screed. The design aims to create a calm and simple backdrop for the residents’ lives and to provide space for quality free-standing furniture. The investor’s villa also houses a collection of contemporary Czech art, characterized by a distinctive color scheme.

Under the star game reserve / martin cenek architecture

The buildings were constructed primarily as a monolithic reinforced concrete structure, featuring exposed bottom faces of the ceiling slabs and steel columns. Heating is provided by air-to-water heat pumps and hot-water floor heating. All buildings are equipped with ventilation heat recovery and air conditioning systems. Each house meets passive house standards, ensuring exceptional energy efficiency.

Under the star game reserve / martin cenek architecture
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Project Location

Address: Prague 6, 160 00 Prague, Czech Republic

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