Troglodyte 'eco' villa carved out of Monaco rock face

MONACO (Reuters) - Armed with a vision and a large saw, architects Jean-Pierre Lott and Patrick Raymond have crafted a luxury ‘eco’ villa out of a rock face in Monaco, using cork insulation, water recycling and solar panels to optimize energy and costs.

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Built inside a cliff that was once topped with a fortified village dating to the 10th century B.C., “Villa Troglodyte” is approximately 220 square meters with six floors, three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a swimming pool carved into the bedrock.

Lott told Reuters the idea came quickly when surveying the property, with the challenge of creating space and light.

“Contrary to traditional houses... where you erect walls and build floors, where you work by adding elements, here on the contrary we’re digging into the ground, looking for spaces, sculpting the material,” he said.

“In that respect, it’s the opposite way of working.”

Rather than a luxury home, Lott describes the property as an innovative building with environmental value.

There is a miniature water-treatment facility integrated into the structure, along with solar panels for electricity and natural heating to reduce the carbon footprint.

To build the home, they had to remove most of the upper rock surface, leaving the base so that the upper floors could be added later. The construction was designed around a vertical fold in the rock, dividing the geometry of the house and allowing for windows and terraces.

The exterior was recreated in the image of the previous surface in an attempt to mask the construction and give it a natural appearance. Vegetation, cracks and cavities were all recreated out of concrete to give a natural appearance.

Villa Troglodyte, which took nearly 20 months to build, is for sale with no official listing price but is expected to fetch 30 to 40 million euros ($33-$44 million).

Because of the cost of equipment and length of construction, the project is not easily replicable, which makes the building more a piece of art than a model for future designs.

The villa was named troglodyte because it still means “living in a cave” in French, whereas in English the word has taken on the meaning of someone ignorant or prehistoric.

Green or natural architectural designs are not a new concept, even if each has unique properties.

Structures like Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright, located in western Pennsylvania, have attempted to blend in with the landscape and complement the environment rather than form a distinct identity of their own.

Writing by Forrest Crellin; Editing by Hugh Lawson