A New Tradition

architects Proarh
project Stone House, Lukovo Šugarje, Croatia
written by Divna Antičević

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photo archive Proarh

Building a summer house on the Croatian coast has been a simple discipline for decades now. Relatives arrive, friends are invited, material is brought, a floor slab is cast, and one, two (sometimes three as well) – another member emerges in the first row of houses right next to the sea. Sometimes, these are completed entities with the whitewashed roofs and occasionally with protruding steel reinforcements waiting for better days, when the necessary minimum of living space will become more luxurious, but what they all share is strictly utilitarian quality. Yes, a few stone lions will end up in courtyards and tiny unnecessary details will be seen here and there, for the soul – but not one room is built in a summer house that is not used. If not always pleasant to the eye, our coast has been built cleverly and shrewdly.


In the coastal settlement of Lukovo Šugarje, one more little house pushed itself between other houses based on the above described principle. It was constructed following similar, yet somewhat supplemented rules. This stone prism on an irregular plot is an expression of real needs, but also a harmonious response to the location that evokes and interprets the heritage of Dalmatian architecture, without deviating into excessive narration and pathetic sentiments.


The programme is carefully and rationally arranged along the vertical in order to use all the capacities of the modest plot and satisfy the demands of users. Two lower floors that have contact with the exterior space owing to the inclination of the terrain are designed to have more public quality, and the top floor of this coastal tower is intended for sleeping. The middle floor became the entrance space with the kitchen and living room, while the lowest floor that abuts the waterfront is the centre of summer daily life with the kitchen and dining room. Large glass walls that open up towards the space of the austere courtyard, formed around a preserved pittosporum tree, cleverly erase the boundary between the interior and the exterior. And so, this private sunbathing spot becomes, when necessary, a Dalmatian dining room with fish, wine, the sound of waves, and all that goes with it.


What also accompanies life on the seaside is salt and the bora. In order to resist their onrush, the house was given the facade made of stone, constructed in the autochthonous and somewhat romantic manner, which has already proved its efficiency in such circumstances. The architect does not philosophise here either, but chooses the material that has been satisfactory for the needs of such buildings for centuries. The rhythm of the windows that extend along the entire height of the floor, protected with wooden shutters, enables sufficient light for visits during the winter, but also enough deep shade during hot summer afternoons. Closed in the direction of the neighbours and open toward the sea, this envelope focuses and stresses aspiration to have private, meditative summer recess.


From the contents to the aesthetics, the architecture follows rules here without allowing for surplus or shortage in any respect. Nevertheless, it does allow little excesses here and there, tiny decadences, its own lions, in form of oblique angles or an additional little living room that makes this house even livelier without jeopardizing its functionality and integrity of the idea.


Introverted and modest in its reserved monolithic nature, this summer house does not devalue and criticise the surroundings where it has been built, but it takes over the best from it and shows, with a balance, that it can be the same, and yet different.