Architect: Valerio Olgiati
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Project Manager: Pascal Flammer
Construction Supervisor: Peter Diggelmann, Archobau AG, Chur
Structural Engineer: Patrick Gartmann, partner of Conzett, Bronzini, Gartmann AG, Chur
Project Area: 520 sqm
Project Year: 2003-2005
Photographs: Courtesy of Valerio Olgiati
An unpretentious entrance, then a strangely self-contained, dimly lit, winding corridor that leads down a flight of steps as if we were descending into a cave. But then we open a door —and are left speechless. The square room that we now enter is spacious and light. Four large, rectangular windows, all of the same size, open onto views of four different “pictures” and transform the living room of the house into a kind of pavilion, open to all sides —an impression that is made all the stronger when, in fine weather, the windows are sunk into the ground and the four winds waft through the room.
But the living room does not consist solely of walls with large window openings. One corner of the square is occupied by an opaque volume, and the rectangular flight of steps is wrapped around another. Thus the walls do not make a fragile impression like surfaces folded into right angles; rather, the room seems to be part of an organism that constitutes the whole. It is this dimension that gives the building ist strength, its almost excessive impact, and it is from this that everything else ensues. The building is not put together, it is a spatial shell.
Each room, no matter how small, is complete in itself. All the reinforced concrete interior walls are of equal thickness. Furthermore, constructed of the same light-coloured, exposed concrete that gives the building its monochrome unity. The house definitely does not belong to the world of vertebrates, but to the realm of the crustaceans.
The volume and compactness of the building is impressive, as are the atmospheric contrast and lighting effects and the different characters of the main rooms. But the contrasts, far from leading to a fragmentation of the whole, reinforce it and give it the character of a real organism.