lad in 650m² of sustainable Kebony wood, this unique property has been built to complement the surrounding scenery, with natural timber cladding and irregular pitched roofs, characteristic of the surroundings and in harmony with the hillsides and pine trees. The villa strikes the perfect balance with an architectural style that is simultaneously modern and traditional.
Located on a sunny slope within a regional park, this family home fits into the natural rhythms of the undulating hillside, the angular design and irregular shape of the house seems an almost natural extension of the landscape. Large windows partially covered by vertical wooden slats stretch across the upper level of the house, working to bring the outside in and projecting a warm glow over the hillside at night.
The architects felt the villa should take influence from traditional Lithuanian homesteads, and sought to reinterpret this in a contemporary manner. Through their stylised design of the Valley Villa, the architects at Arches reinterpreted the form of traditional double pitch, gable roofed buildings, drawing inspiration from the former farmhouse that occupied the site. A large proportion of Lithuanian homes lie on granite foundations; Arches’ architects decided to allude to this and include an additional element of traditional design by implementing granite paving to surround the lower level of Valley Villa.
The large floor area of the villa is divided into micro-spaces, with all main interior spaces accessing exterior courtyards arranged on separate levels, this allows the building to be accessible whilst maintaining an element of privacy. As an added benefit, having multiple courtyards on different sides of the house allows for outside spaces to catch both the morning and evening sun. The overhanging aspect of the first floor makes use of cantilevers adjacent to the main structure to create a dramatic ‘hovering’ effect. There is a growing trend amongst architects and engineers to see how far a building can be cantilevered, with impressive results evidenced by the Valley Villa. This adds to the distinctive modernist elements, the contrasting external cladding, with a darker lower level and lighter first floor, reflects the apparent hovering of the upper level.
Architect Arnas Liola aimed to design a structure that was both ecologically-friendly and striking in appearance, interweaving natural materials with a bold sculptural form to accomplish this. The clean, angular design creates an exterior that is minimalist in style, with Kebony as the primary material highlighted against the black slate at the building’s base. The firm has frequently chosen to work with Kebony due to the fact that it is a natural material, but with the resistance to stand up to testing conditions far better than softwood. The high quality of the wood, as well as the skills of an exceptional carpenter, meant the timber could be sculpted and worked with easily for this particular project.
Kebony requires no additional treatment even when used as an external cladding; the material simply develops a silver-grey patina, which will allow the house to adapt naturally to its surroundings over a period of time without compromising on structural qualities.
The patented Kebony technology is an environmentally-friendly process, which enhances the properties of fast-growing, sustainable softwood with a bio-based liquid. By heating the wood with furfuryl alcohol – an agricultural by-product – the wood’s cell wall is polymerised, meaning that the softwoods permanently take on the attributes of tropical hardwood, including high durability, hardness and dimensional stability. The result is a high-performing, beautiful wood product without the need for tropical deforestation.
A comparative study by environmental consulting firm, Bergfald & Co, showed that Kebony has a carbon footprint of less than 10% when compared with unsustainable clear fell Burmese teak or Ipê from Brazil. The study showed that the carbon footprint for Brazilian Ipê falls in the range of 7500–15,000 kilograms per cubic metre, while the carbon footprint of modified Kebony is approximately 459 kilograms per cubic metre. Both figures include treatment and transportation to Northern Europe. The patented Kebony process increases the wood’s lifecycle and resistance to wear and weathering without the need for chemical treatments or maintenance during the product’s lifecycle of more than 40 years. The high-performance qualities and resistance to wear and weathering make Kebony the perfect material for external cladding in projects such as this.
Arnas Liola, Architect at Arches, commented: “Every time we use Kebony we learn more and more about its creative capabilities, the possibilities are endless. It is the perfect sustainable, natural and multi-purpose material for our designs, always providing an impressive final product with a striking and natural appearance.”
Gytis Korzinskas of HOTA, Kebony’s distributor in the Baltics, added: “This is a remarkable project and it has been fascinating to see how such a modern architectural triumph has integrated itself beautifully into its surroundings. We at Kebony are so pleased to have been involved in such a project, and look forward to seeing what the team at Arches can design next.”
There are various wood modification methods, all of which permanently alter the structure of the cell walls. These include methods like heat treatment, acetylation and polymer grafting.
The Kebony technology modifies wood by forming stable, locked-in furan polymers in the wood cell walls. These increase the dimensional stability, as well as durability and hardness, of the wood. The process is based on impregnation with furfuryl alcohol, which is produced from agricultural crop waste. Kebony thus uses a plant-derived waste product to give enhanced strength and durability to another plant product – namely wood.
Step 1: Impregnation
Impregnation is the process in which the wood is soaked in a bio-based liquid. During impregnation, furfuryl alcohol, produced from a bio-based liquid, is imparted into the wood to make it dimensionally-stable wood.
Step 2: Curing and drying
After impregnation, the wood is heated – whereby the polymerisation of the furfuryl alcohol occurs. This step is referred to as the curing step. The resulting polymer, which is now permanently locked into the wood cells, is stable and will not disintegrate or leak out of the wood.
Step 3: Kebony wood
After treatment, the wood cell walls are 50% thicker due to the stable, locked-in polymers. This permanent modification of the wood cell walls gives the final wood product outstanding stability, the maximum amount of hardness and a guaranteed long life. Kebony wood also provides a high level of safety as the wood does not splinter and contains no toxins or chemicals, nor does the wood get too hot in the summer.
Furthermore, Kebony wood is resistant against rot and fungi and other wood-destroying microorganisms in above-ground context. Kebony is a low-maintenance material that does not require any additional treatment beyond normal cleaning, thus, no oils or other impregnation solutions.