Expressive Beauty of the Horizontal

  • contemporary architecture

In the settlement of Dubrovka, architect Roman Leonidov built "Oakland House" - a cottage the image and layout of which were developed under the motto "simplicity and tranquility".


Dubrovka" is a rather large settlement located down the Kaluzhskoe Highway. What the drivers-by see from the highway, is basically the long rows of townhouses that bring up not-the-most-optimistic associations with military quarters, and the nearby high-rises that are still under construction. In reality, however, behind these quarters there is still more territory of private housing - completely concealed from the eyes of the strangers, the cottages look as if they lead a completely independent existence, turning away from the more densely developed areas. And it was Roman Leonidov that got the commission of designing one of these townhouses still back in 2007. The only request of the future tenants, besides that of giving the house an up-to-date look, was isolating it from its neighbors - the house was to have nothing in common with the three-story townhouses designed in some average European style with their sloping tile roofs, brick-lined window apertures, and numerous bay windows. Strictly, the very words "simplicity and tranquility" were first said by the commissioners themselves, and what Roman Leonidov did was translate them into the language of architecture.

The cottage is located at the end of a rectangular land site in such a way that, first of all, it keeps a fairly large portion of surrounding grounds intact, and, second of all, it simply turns away from the super-dense mass of block housing. Like a true introvert, the house looks directly before itself - the street that runs along the longer side of the plot gets shut off not with a fence (which, according to the master plan, must be all but conditional here) but by some sort of a partition screen. And although its length is more than 30 meters, it does not evoke the feeling of monotony in the least. This effect is achieved, first of all, at the expense of the rectangular portal that marks the house entrance, the light ribbon of the swimming pool hidden behind it, and the narrow slits of the summer veranda, and, second of all, with the help of the finishing materials used.

For the revetment of this wall, Roman Leonidov selects the natural wood of the saturated terracotta color that looks bright and vivid even in the cloudiest weather. On the one hand, I wanted to somehow soften the rigor of our 'introvert', and wood was the perfect material for this task - the architect explains and on the other, the choice of material was prompted by the very name of the village ("Dubrovka" may be literally translated as "Oakland" - translator's note). I wanted to spin the name of "Dubrovka" somehow, all the more so because, regretfully, most of its houses are not connected with wood in any way. The name that Roman Leonidov eventually gave to the cottage is more than appropriate: Oakland in fact IS that same Dubrovka, only translated into the "Western" language, and the new house differs from its surroundings in approximately the same way that the inhabitant of the modern megalopolis is different from the average inhabitant of the Russian backcountry.

The main residential volume is placed perpendicular to the wall, while the swimming pool, as was already said, is placed directly beneath it. A similar L-shaped composition made it possible to orient all the living premises inside the land site and to make in front of the house a quiet lawn, isolated from the outside world. Peculiar is the fact that this space in fact remains the "air" that this house breathes - to provide for utter privacy, Roman Leonidov goes as far as to refrain from bringing the terraces to the public eye: one of the terraces is designed as the continuation of the swimming pool, and the other is placed under the balcony of the master's bedroom. 

Opting in favor of the laconic, horizontally-oriented composition, Roman Leonidov enriches it with the finish. And, if from the street the house is separated by the wooden screen, through which one can only see the plastered parallelepiped of the second floor, it faces the land plot with a dress that is far more refined and sophisticated. What we see here is large-scale glazing that reflects the landscape, the wide textured natural stone friezes, wooden inserts, and expensive brick that is used to coat the "private" part of the house, the supporting pillars and the balcony, and the imposing pylon. The architect deliberately carried out the latter to the stucco facade and it now looks like a decorative sculptural element but this impression is deceptive: in fact, it performs the function of a bearing wall with a fireplace inside of it.

The materials declared on the facade set the tone in the indoor design. Here the customers had one extra request though: the indoor design was to look completely up-to-date but at the same time allow for quite perceptible ethnic allusions. The fact is that the owners of this house are the collectors of African and Asian art, and they are planning to exhibit some parts of their collection. With this task in mind, designer Anastasia Leonidova who developed the indoor design placed the main stress on the combination of natural wood and stone, using rosewood, slate, and travertine.

The architects were able to compensate for the relatively small square footage of the living room by making a fully-glass wall between the living room and the study, as well as installing a large aquarium into the opposite wall. The designer introduced the colonial motifs into the decoration of the bedroom as well - besides the accurately selected furniture, this room sports a very unusual ceiling: in the narrow shallow niches, which cut through the ceiling throughout the entire length of the room, Anastasia Leonidova put the wooden bars that resemble the necklace of some savage tribe leader or maybe the skeleton of some prehistoric animal. The swimming pool is also designed in a very interesting way - the same orchestra of materials is enriched by unfinished concrete of the ceiling and the "honest" metal of the vents that the architects decided not to hide but turn into a decoration of this light-colored space.

Text by: Roman Leonidov, Anastasia Leonidova, Anna Martovitskaya
Translated by Anton Mizonov

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