A House for Two

written by Lovorka Prpić
architect  Bogdan Budimirov
project Family House, Zagreb, Croatia


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In fact, nothing changes all the time, but so, as we change during the years, the program is corrected. The question isis it this house that we will make? After a while, my wife may think and point the finger at a point in the draft. Finally, she said, "Why should we build? Why do we not put two containers? We do not need a building permit for that !"

Bogdan Budimirov, in an interview with Vladimir Mattioni, summer 2002.


With an aphorism, typical of him, Bogdan Budimirov ironizes, but actually reveals the trap of designing for oneself. To design one’s own house is difficult for an architect—particularly in the case of a plot to which the family is emotionally attached. The plot on Perjavica is very large, green and sunny, devoid of mitigating spatial restrictions: there are countless possible variants of solutions. An architect finds it hard to find time for themselves because there is always a more important job to do, which further hampers the already slow process of the creation of a house.


Budimirov began the design of the house for his wife and himself in the late 1960s, when he was only forty. Decades have passed since then: the 21st variation was finally executed. A House for two is almost finished today; it remains to install some equipment and lay the final layer of the floor in the interior. Meanwhile, the owners have moved into the house. They brought in only the most necessary things. In the living room, in place of the future dining table, Budimirov placed Moya, his drawing table at which he designs the elements of equipment and details that are missing. He produces drawings on a daily basis. The living room has become an architectural workshop; a house for two has become Budimirov’s work in progress – a house emptied of the superfluous. Everyday work as the meaning, the living of life.


The house was planned as a place where two people would spend their old age, and is therefore conceived in one level, suitable also for movement in a wheelchair, designed in a 120 cm module. The modeling of the space is conditioned by the elements inherited from two houses that were once owned by the family. The clear height of the floor corresponds to the height of the built-in glazed sliding doors from architect Bogdan Petrović’s house at 11 Novakova Street. A fireplace is from Novakova Street too, and the brass chandeliers stem from architect Bohutinsky’s country house in Perjavica. The floor plan layout was set by the wife’s desire to talk with her husband from the kitchen when he is in the living room or bedroom: the kitchen is thus in the center, between the living room and the room. The architect has chosen the Pannonian linear layout with a series of rooms along one corridor, refining it through elaboration. Budimirov shares Strižić’s view that the layout is the cultural construct, and does not need to be invented—only a model that provides the most options, the so-called optimal compromise, needs to be selected.


A not-so-large single-storey house was moved in relation to the neighbors for better vistas of the plot, the experience of more space. It was built on the bend of the hill where the gentle slope breaks, being  steeper towards the south. The terrain is a landslide, so the structure must hold the hill: the foundation slab turns into a technical basement. That lower part of the house is connected with a roof slab to the long wall of the northern façade. This structure is a protective envelope, a concrete cabinet into which a dilated thermally insulated insert is put, a housing wooden tray. In it is the main layout strip of the living spaces oriented to the south and a narrower strip of the hallway with the services along the double northern wall. Circumferentially, the porch extends along the entire south facade, and spreads out into covered terraces on the side ends of the house. Through these transitional spaces, the house is open for interaction with the plot on three sides: the south, east and west. The degree of interaction is modulated by the opening of glass walls, the interior curtain for the privacy of the bedroom, and peripheral shutters for the regulation of insulation and weather protection. Although geometrically the same, the two terraces provide completely different experiences in terms of views, insulation, the materialization of the sheath, and the height relation to the terrain. The relatively long paths  of movement enable a variety of experience along the promenade that intensifies the perception by exciting the senses within the shelter created by the architecture. The architectural promenade is an endless plane loop – an ideal route for daily walks. Currently in progress is the designing of a more complex, spatial loop – the garden walkway. Not an easy task: on a slope covered with trees, to plan the route of a slope up to 6 per cent, without cutting down the trees!


Budimirov is interested in taking care of natural resources–not to waste natural resources, use what is available economically, treat the world with respect. The house on Perjavica is passive, treated as a great collector of solar energy. Energy efficiency is achieved with suitable orientation, a thick layer of thermal insulation, solar roof panels, a heating and ventilation plant with a heat pump. The energy class of the house is A+, and per year, it needs only 5 kWh/m2 of thermal energy! In the basement, there is a tank for collecting rainwater, which is used to wash the terraces and to water the garden. Ethics, sovereignty, efficiency: like the architect, like the house!


For years, Budimirov and his wife have cherished closeness to this location, a rich habitat of plants and animals they tried to disrupt as little as possible with their construction. Nature here is wild and original, and they intend to keep it this way: they will not cultivate the garden. On the lawn with fruit trees, cherries predominate. In spring, they revive the garden with their blossom, and in autumn, they flush it with their leaves, says Bogdan, and invites for a visit. The cherries have blossomed, he says.


In accepting nature as it is, a fascination with reality is pronounced. Budimirov does not try to control the reality, but wants to experience it in its dynamic essence. To experience the blossom of a cherry means to be present, immersed in reality. It is a way towards the insight into the essence which is beyond form. While we stand in the gentle shade of the eastern terrace, a breeze blows the white petals, and Bogdan speaks about how he got the idea for the elastic panel for chairs by watching the hand, the fingers, and their mechanics. I think of Klee, who taught the students of the Bauhaus to study natural phenomena: By contemplating the optical-physical appearance, the ego arrives at intuitive conclusions about the inner substance. The synthesis of exactness and intuition, a way to the synthesis of knowledge.