At the gateway to central Aarhus, on the threshold between suburban residential housing and urban city blocks, lies Villa Landluft – a stately mansion built in 1897 with references to Italian Renaissance architecture. The name Villa Landluft, Danish for ‘Villa Country Air’, originates from a time when the house was situated far outside of central Aarhus. After more than a hundred years of urban development, this once proud mansion had declined into a dilapidated architectural alien – a last remaining bastion of a bygone era. The project reactivates an outdated building typology, which had become detached from its surroundings both aesthetically, functionally, and demographically.
Villa Landluft is revived through a profound transformation and the construction of a twin, Villa Landluft II – together forming a coherent project where times and typologies merge into an unsentimental collage. It is created within an architectural interplay between the two houses as well as a new correlation with the surrounding city. A private garden that draws inspiration from the Italian Renaissance garden, is laid out between the original Villa Landluft and Villa Landluft II. The plot is bordered by a trellis that both blends and blurs the boundary between private property and city life. Likewise, the southeast corner of the plot is open and generously turned into a small-scale public space that merges cadaster and city.
The existing mansion bore traces of numerous additions which had diminished its original character. These are peeled away making the classical compositions reappear – a white rendered façade with elegant friezes, distinct reliefs, and a sharp cornice line. Without replicating existing elements, the interior points back to stately qualities in a manner which demonstrates contemporary construction techniques. The herringbone flooring is maintained, while the once threadbare walls are coarsely plastered and insulated with gypsum board partitions.
In the stairwell, calcium silicate blocks reinterpret the classical masonry while the stairway itself is made from laser-cut steel plates reflecting contemporary potentials of craft. The interposed wet rooms – like the insulating partitions – do not take advantage of the full ceiling height. This allows the stucco to show the original dimensions of the rooms as a testimony to Villa Landluft’s ceremonious past – placed pragmatically alongside galvanized ventilation pipes.
Villa Landluft II mirrors Villa Landluft as a contemporary interpretation of a mansion. The proportions, the symmetry of the dormers, the rhythm of the windows, the distinctive cornice, and the subtle frieze all refer to Villa Landluft’s architecture. Inside, the cast-in-place concrete structural framework appears exposed, making the formwork’s imprint materialize as a sensuous element. The raw concrete surfaces reveal the tectonics of the building and convey the construction of the house.
Each floor has two three-room apartments that mirror each other across a central axis. In each room, Villa Landluft’s stucco is subtly reinterpreted as a functional cassette system, which contains a thin sliding rail for curtains and wall decoration. The windows are mounted on the outside of the concrete framework, making the openings appear as sharp cuts in the concrete planes, when viewed from the inside. They reveal sections through the building’s exterior walls and expose the anatomy of the Villa Landluft II.
The re-activation of the historic villa takes place by integrating contemporary building components and techniques in an understanding of the area’s typologies, qualities, and living conditions. In one coherent project Villa Landluft and Villa Landluft II unsentimentally enter a dialogue with and about our built heritage. In consequence, the transition from the historicist villa to the contemporary context is mediated, and the cadaster is revived as part of the urban fabric.