words Beatrice Galilee
“I wanted it to look like a house made by a kid,” muses architect Johannes Norlander of the Villa Alta. “A kid who was kind of, ‘Fuck the context.’ You know?” This was a particularly maverick approach, given that the context was a very quiet and reserved suburb a few miles outside of Stockholm. The neighbours didn’t take long to take action. “They took me to court, tried to sue me and said it was ugly,” Norlander admits. “But the judge was with me.”
Perched on the edge of a rock, it looks like a highly bespoke modernist home for a designer or art collector, but is in fact a speculative project built by the construction company that Norlander runs with his father. The slim, two-storey house, just 4.6m wide and 6m high, is kinked in plan. The windows are plentiful and generous in size, flooding light into the open-plan living area on the ground floor and over the staircase. East-facing bedrooms are above the kitchen to take in the morning light, and on the west side the house is opened for evening barbecues. The art-gallery aesthetic – reminiscent of Tokyo practice SANAA – is matched inside with polished concrete floors and white walls.
The project took 18 months, including the court appearance, and the building was quickly sold to a couple. “The good thing was we don’t have to compromise,” says Norlander. “I had a budget and I went with my first design. I thought – if I like it, then hopefully someone else would.”