Making the impossible possible: Swiss architect Gus Wüstemann has succeeded in giving housing a bit more equality.
The magic of small scale. The residential units of Langgrütstraße appear larger than they actually are, due to successful views.
Of course, it's always nice when magnificent buildings shine in large pictures in magazines and journals. This stimulates fantasies, awakens desires and mobilises yearnings. But even more beautiful is architectures that become tangible, in that it is affordable and, in the end, does not have to remain simply a dream for many people.
Limitless beauty. Interior and exterior spaces merge to form a spatial unit.
The Swiss architectural firm Gus Wüstemann Architects was commissioned by the I+B Baechi Stiftung to create precisely this type of architecture in Zurich: affordable living space that does not compromise quality. Gus Wüstemann accepted the challenge and, with the residential building at Langgrütstrasse 107, developed an exemplary project that proves that, with targeted interventions in light and space and a simultaneous reduction in pre-existing ideas, generous living spaces are possible - without any additional economic expense. "In today's world, a change in thinking is needed. Sustainability in the sense of less for the individual but more for the community, is becoming increasingly important. With this housing project we show how, in architecture, shifting the focus from particular connotations and measurements to spatial quality, makes this very thing possible" Gus Wüstemann explains his design approach.
Room quality as the measure of all things: It's not the size that counts, but how the room works - that's what matters.
In the middle of a settlement, a simple row of buildings from the 1950s, are arranged at right angles to each other, characterised by greenery through with generously sized gardens. The building, made of solid concrete with an organic formwork, houses four 60-square-meter, three-and-a-half-room apartments and five 90-square-meter-four-and-a-half-room apartments, reflecting the new spaciousness. All are oriented towards the south, where there is a large communal terrace. Sun and light generally take on an important part in this spatial choreography: in the two courtyards, "cut out" of the building structure, the living spaces float like bridges and catch both the rays of the morning and the evening sun. The views through the living spaces give the impression that they are actually outdoor spaces - this clever architectural arrangement creates an incredible moment of grandeur in an inherently small space.
With refined details and only fragmentary space-dividing elements, the room always remains in a state of flow.
The best use of space is made throughout the interior, including the periphery of the living spaces. This is made possible by making the space more open plan, free flowing and human-centric. This project is defined by a space-defining, customised design of all areas - from the wardrobes to the living room bench to the kitchen. For example, the bathroom of the four-and-a-half-room apartment is separated from the common space by a sliding door that never touches the floor. The concrete bench that appears to ‘grow’ out of the bathroom wall creates a place, a moment of transition, right at the entrance to the sliding bathroom door. The space continues to flow as a continuum of community, creating intimacy.
All rooms with different functions were included in the seamless flow of space.
This flow of space is encountered as soon as one enters the apartment: The tone of the space is set by a massive concrete beam. One is guided and the moment of entry is captured. The concept of flow is also echoed by the continuous concrete floor, flowing into all bedrooms to give some continuity. It then merges into a wooden surface on the bedroom floor. Gus Wüstemann manages to use a simple architectural gesture to create openness, continuity, and thus an unobtrusive spatial expanse that transforms the compact living units into spacious living environments.
This is an edited translation by Helen Parton
Originally written by Barbara Jahn
All the pictures: © Bruno Helbling