In 2006, Philipp Tschofen and Carmen Wiederin, of the Vienna-based atelier Propeller Z, found an opportunity too weird to pass up. Thirty miles north of the city, a landowner wanted to sell a three-quarter-acre orchard and farmhouse for the price of a car. “We said, ‘Exactly what kind of car do you have in mind?’ ” Tschofen laughs. One worth $25,000, it turned out. The architects forked over the money and found themselves with a piece of countryside and a dilapidated 200-year-old building.
The old farmhouse—a traditional U shape with the living space separated from the barn and stable by a courtyard—tucks into sloping terrain. The architects had a limited budget to make the most of their purchase, but they wanted to take advantage of the beautiful southern view that the half-buried original structure neglected. Tschofen and Wiederin designed what they call an “open eye”—a new, elevated kitchen and living room behind a wall of glass, framed by thick aluminum—to capture the vista, only removing one corner of the original roof to make way for it. Using readily available materials, the architects made the addition both cheap and energy efficient. Best of all, it disturbs the preexisting structure as little as it disturbs the neighbors. “From the street, nobody can actually see what I’ve done to the place,’” Tschofen says. “I have to invite them in to hear, ‘Wow!’”
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