I first saw House Gumno on photographs. As they usually do, they revealed everything and nothing. I could have discerned the geometry, colours, selection of materials and traces of its spirit. In order to gain a proper impression, however, I had to see it in person.
House Gumno is situated on the north-eastern side of the island of Krk. It is one of many buildings – summer houses, apartments – which have been built in the area during the last couple of years. As you come up the road, more precisely, a pathway, you have to look for the house, even though it is situated on the top of the hill. It has blended into the landscape of forested hills, and it is firmly fixed among the buildings of similar purpose. The house was pulled towards the top of the lot, and thus the old threshing floor (gumno) which gave the area its name, was preserved. Besides its physical appearance, the idea of the gumno area is present, as well. In the life of the village this area was not just utilitarian – it was the meeting place, and the centre of its social life. The shaping has reinforced the remains of the past, and made the whole ground level area one of interaction and socialisation. The placement of the tavern – a summer kitchen, extended this idea to the entire ground floor of the building.
The programme is the result of the expectations of a family of four from their vacation home. They wanted to have a tavern, open living area, a pool, a terrace, and enough privacy for each member of the family. And everything is there – one, two, three, four. The firm base covered in stone, aluminium and glass cuboid situated above, the terrace and the pool on a concrete construction, and four separate plastered houses on the top. Stone, concrete, glass, plaster – as an architectural mantra. But here, and precisely here, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Once you are in front of the house, the principles of its creation are perfectly clear and logical. The interpolation of several layers of design has resulted in spatial harmony and exciting areas. The allocations are organised vertically and ensure different levels of privacy; from the tavern, which gives access to the house and is its most public area, to the family living room on the upper floor, and bedrooms on the top of the building. The turn of each layer gives the tavern unobstructed view, every room has its own terrace, and creates a spacious living area on the upper floor, instead of an array of rooms. The house is turned around the staircase, thus offering diverse spatial experiences in each of its parts having a specific purpose, a specific geometry, its own view, and a piece of the ceiling structure (steel or concrete) which gently affirms this impression. The glazed wall separates the inner and the outer area, which is dominated by a large terrace with the pool. The pool is elevated to the upper floor level by a concrete foot, an alternative approach from the ground level area, which thus provided a better connection with the life of the house. This combination of small intimate dens in the interior, and open, almost exposed exteriors, created an interesting contrast and resulted in diverse, complementary scenarios of use.
The materialisation of the house will make most hardened sceptics rethink their attitude toward bare concrete. The concrete, casually painted in warm (yes!) black and red colour goes perfectly with rough steel beams, wooden floors (a refreshing site after ceramic tiles; the inevitable part of all apartments built at the seaside) and parapets of interwoven steel cables. The house is very tactile; it invites you to touch it, and explore it with all your senses – even with the hearing. When you go past the pool technology, you seem to hear it as if romantically murmuring.
Some furniture and details have been designed, and some was brought in by the owners. It is the way it should be, as the architect says himself. Houses are for living. This house has really fulfilled that purpose: from a planned weekend house it became an almost permanent residence. It is the biggest compliment it could have received.
Ultimately, House Gumno is a line of attractive, clever overlaps, combinations of ideas and feelings of home, place, context. It transfers the importance of togetherness, but also the importance of individuality and one’s own space. It does not make you use it in a specific way, in its own way. Instead it gently directs you towards solutions you never knew were possible, ones which cannot be detected from a photograph. But, once you are there, you know – that is it.