Urban Living Goes Soft

THE SOFT HOUSE, a winning competition project for adaptable live/work row housing designed by the KVA Matx Team with 360+ Architekten opens today in Hamburg, Germany in the International Building Exhibition (IBA).




A New Model

The Soft House offers a new model for carbon neutral construction and an ecologically responsive lifestyle that can be personalized to meet homeowner needs.  The Soft House design features the first global demonstration of an innovative solid soft-wood structure that sequesters carbon and a movable, textile infrastructure.  On the exterior, the Soft House interactive, flexible facade harvests energy. On the interior, homeowners can move the Soft House smart curtains to configure space, provide solid state lighting and create personal micro-climates. Using the site’s natural resources — sun, wind, daylight, ground water and land for urban agriculture — the Soft House provides light filled, dynamic living spaces that meet German PassiveHaus environmental standards, while offering homeowners a much more open and flexible living experience.


Soft House is Active

“The Soft House is an ‘active’ house.  The wood structure is enduring while the domestic infrastructure of energy, lighting, and space making become more like furnishings — mobile, interactive and connected to the soft house wireless network, a smart building management system,” said Sheila Kennedy, AIA a Principal of KVA Matx.


Soft House is Traditional

The Soft House structure is a traditional solid spruce-wood construction (brettstapfel) with wood dowel joints. Made by local fabricators, the structure can be fully recycled at the end of the buildings’ life. The soft-wood construction is complimented by flexible photovoltaic nano-materials in a network of textile ‘twisters’ that respond to sun orientation — creating the first 2-axis soft solar tracking system.  Just as a sunflower moves with the sun, the facade moves to capture the maximum amount of clean energy to power the housing units.  At the same time, it casts shade in the summer and allows light to penetrate deep into the homes during the winter – saving the household energy year round. In the interior, the Soft House smart curtains provide LED lighting and distribute low voltage clean energy harvested by the exterior facade. The LED lighting that moves in the Soft House curtains creates a Visual Breeze — an ambient interior luminous expression of the external environment — one of many programmable modes for real time monitoring and visualization of outside wind and climate conditions.


Soft House is Transformational

The Soft House facade demonstrates how historically “hard” energy infrastructure—such as nonrenewable energy, glass-based solar panels, and sun-tracking machinery—can be transformed by design that uses intelligent structures and lighter, low-carbon materials linked by energy and information networks.  “The Soft House is an outstanding example of intelligent technologies and conceptual innovation in housing at the International Building Exhibition,” commented Uli Hellweg, Managing Director of IBA. “It represents a new type of carbon neutral, urban living that is pioneering a 21st century architectural aesthetic where energy harvesting provides the public identity of the building.” The Soft House design team includes 360+ Architekten (Hamburg), Knippers Helweg Advanced Engineering (Stuttgart), G2 Landschaft (Hamburg), Buro Happold MEP (Berlin) and project developer Patrizia, AG (Augsburg). The Soft House manufacturing consortium includes Svensson Global, AG, Global Solar, Inc., Philips Lighting, Inc., Automated Devices, Inc. and L-tonics, Inc.



Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd. (KVA Matx) is an interdisciplinary design practice that works at the intersection of architecture, digital technologies and emerging public needs. Matx, the interdisciplinary research unit at KVA explores material culture across sales. Working with industry leaders and public agencies we create break through designs that advance the sustainable use of new and existing materials and natural resources. For more information on KVA Matx and the IBA Soft House, please see: