House Gross / EM2N

Architects: EM2N
Location: Greifensee,
Programme: new building: 3 childrens’ rooms, 1 bathroom, 2 patios, 1 home cinema/hobby room
Client: Private
Engineers: Tragwerk Bauingenieure GmbH, Zürich
Design year: 2003-2008
Constructed Area: new building: 67 sqm, conversion ground floor: 127 sqm
Photographs: Hannes Henz

In fact, all the clients originally wanted was a larger living room window – now their three children live in a patio house of their own.

From a present-day perspective the use of space in this 1960s development of single-storey row houses with basement seems wasteful. The layout of the estate is far from dense, and in terms of the density permitted by the building regulations there are reserves of potentially usable space. But exploiting the permitted density means conducting intensive negotiations with all neighbours affected before any new building project can be started.

As, according to the building regulations, underground buildings do not count as utilization of space, we suggested to the clients making an underground patio house as a “second house” of their own. So we place an independent underground patio house beside the existing house, without adding a single square metre of surface area above ground thus eliminating the necessity of obtaining the neighbours’ approval.

While two differently shaped courtyards are incised in the garden, the new bedrooms and a bathroom are attached to the existing basement. A former crawl space was converted into a home cinema and new hobby room. A huge screen fills one of the narrow sides of the room while the opposite wall is completely covered with mirrored-glass. Backlit panels with cut-out patterns are located on the side walls, offering specific lighting situations depending on different uses.

A narrow stairs connects the upper house with the lower one. The gaze is directed through the new south window into the garden. The garden is cleared out almost completely and later filled up again. Through large areas of glazing in the patio and the new windows on the ground floor the principal orientation of the house is now south-west. The courtyards are painted white to transport the maximum amount of light. The bays between the railing uprights are filled with a transparent mesh material. Two circular roof lights provide additional light for the children’s bedrooms. They can be closed off with horizontal sliding shutters.

The house and the garden interlock. The increased amount of space underground allowed separate rooms at ground floor level to be combined increasing the size of the living room and giving this initially small and compartmented house a certain expansiveness and generosity.

Cite: "House Gross / EM2N" 03 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Luis

    do u have some inspiration in a egg?

  • Lucas Gray

    Fantastic! An incredibly creative way to maneuver around building codes and create a fantastic living space.

  • Lucas Black

    What a surprise – Mr “LUCAS GRAY” writes again his comment and of course he likes it and find everything FANTASTIC!

  • moma

    What ugly bannisters….why that much yellow, then better no color.

  • kummer

    The concept of the extension is ok, but not really well done / convertet (materials)

  • viniruski

    The cinema/hobby room looks like a lesbian porn studio. And I’m not sure I’d want to take a shower in that bathroom while some kid is sliding down a slide right towards me outside.

  • jay

    god, what horrible taste in color. Mustard yellow? are you kidding

    on the flip side, the mini movie theater idea is fantastic

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    Apparently domestic architecture is out sick and the substitute teacher is a bourgeois Swiss bunker conversion replete with Charlie’s Angels super graphics and the startling innovation of a home cinema. Maybe the architect lives in a bunker too? Maybe bunker living explains this somehow?

  • kayleen

    why is there an outdoor shower?! is there a pool around or something?!

  • Lukas

    Honestly I like it. Even if it does look a little like a bunker its nothing they can’t fix with a new elevation material. The concept itself plays out great. Not only they bypassed some troublesome negotiation with neighbours but the lower rooms have more privacy than the ones on the ground level.

    However I disagree with the home cinema – it so narrow that you won’t get a proper surround sound and it seems putting a couch in there will block any crossing of the room. One more strange thing – anyone noticed a room in the top left corner which is quite big but only has a small conceiled door? creepy

    Overall thats a great adaptation and I think it does illustrate a bit that there are no too high ambitions for a too small project.

  • Amandazz

    i can sniff some jealousy smokin’ out of some ppl’s backside…seriously?? why so mean??

  • Stone

    I like the hierarchical of space,sometimes the space around us is mistiness,as a result that we can’t feel the space clearly.So the clear structure is beautiful.
    Just like the Le Corbusier’s concept-The separation of people and vehicle.
    PS.I love the mini movie theater.

  • Lukas

    Oh, I didn’t see the pictures of the home cinema room. It looks amazing. But also shows how a good movie room should have reflective walls – it looks like there would be reflections of the whole screen on both sides

  • Bo Lucky

    It’s not my style of living but some people may enjoy underground life. Especially in countries with extremely hot or cold climate. It’s a sad day when in the highly developed European country the existing regulations in combination with relationships within the community force people to build houses below the grade. It’s a bad example to follow.

  • Daniel Con

    exactly, house gross

  • ernesto dalmar

    I don’t like it at all. In fact, the project is interesting (talking about program and about what clients wanted) but, in my opinion, it’s not well resoluted. And i also like the neigbourhood relations and to see something from my house…

    or maybe i don’t understand the project very well

  • Manomania

    You’re exactly right, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Like most, there are a bunch of idiots on here…nice project, pushing past the psycrometric barriers

  • Daniel Con

    why are people idiots because they dont like the house?

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  • sullka

    Seriously, some of the comments are pointless, even irrelevant.

    “why an exterior shower, is there a pool?”
    “I wouldn’t shower with a kid slide right in front”
    “mustard yellow, what an horrible color”

    I mean, c’mon!

    Maybe the clients love mustard yellow, when I was a kid, I loved to shower with the hose in my backyard patio, specially during the summers, I think kids would love that in their own private patio, plus it’s easier fo rteh parents to clean up the mess after the kids where playing.

    Maybe its a couple with little kids, young enough to shower with their parents, why would the parents hide when taking a shower then? or maybe it’s a cultural thing and they’re not so “hush hush” with their bodies and nakedness, or maybe there’s a screen that you can lower when taking a shower if you want more privacy, or what if the clients requested that feature.

    C’mon people, post something to discuss.

    Now, It doesn’t really quite seems new construction, more like a house from the 60′s that got rehab.

    While I don’t totally like the overall house aesthetics, I have to admit that is a pretty clever and well thought solution for the building permits issue in hand.

    Another thing, I also love the looks of the home theater, is like out of a scifi movie set, but I’m not too sure if white was the right color for a room you would actually want to be as dark as possible.

    my 2 cents.

  • viniruski

    sulka: sometimes a stoopid project warrants stoopid comments.

  • J Farrelli
  • nombre

    maybe 90% of the readers didn’t notice, that this is an rehabilitation + extension of an old settlement house. the extension shouldn’t harm the rest of the settlement.

    don’t judge if you know nothing whatsoever about sth.

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  • Chris

    That yellow is disturbing..