Two Houses in Zurich

Building upon the steep, former garden with compact volumes follows the pattern of the neighbouring detached houses and apartment buildings from the first half of the 20th century. An access ramp as wide as the house, forming a forecourt and space for parking, connects each respective building with the street above. The houses are not specifically tailored to the current owners; rather, they are buildings universal in nature that could also just as easily operate for other living conditions and inhabitants. They can be separated into two duplex apartments of nearly equal size, or they allow – within the current spatial order – the use of a separate small apartment. Further space divisions or the installation of an elevator are also possible.

In the interior, it is a case of raw structure throughout. The walls and ceilings are covered with a skim-coated white plaster, though left unpainted. The “floorings” are made of sealed gypsum subflooring (anhydrite). Wide sliding doors made from wooden panels allow variations in the spatial relationships.

The load-bearing construction consists of concrete floor slabs, masonry, and concrete walls below grade. The exterior stucco, applied to the mineral based insulation, is simply a base screed layer of lime cement. The way of applying the stucco with a broom – indeed, with the structure of a base layer - underlines the sense of rough construction and, in addition, is able to give expression to the “textile-like” character of the facade's construction.

Large windows with black metal frames are set into the facade like grand “optical instruments”. Towards the west, where one has a view of the city, they are placed in a dense row, while they appear solitarily on the remaining facades. The recessed roof level opens up to the terraces with large window fronts in aluminium. In contrast to the complex, dark, lime cement colour tones of the stucco, the protective coating on the wooden surfaces of the doors and gates is kept in clear, glowing spectral colours.

Like the former allotment gardens, the garden remains planted with fruit and nut trees. Field grasses are seeded inbetween. In the steeper, western part of the parcel, hazelnut and blackberry bushes continue the moderate wilderness in a nearly unchanged form.

Location Zurich, Switzerland

Programme Two detached houses, each with a secondary annex

Feasibility Study 1995, 1st Prize ex aequo

Planning/Construction 1997–1998

Client private

Gross Floor Area House A: 476 m2
House B: 473 m2

Team G/G Annette Gigon, Mike Guyer, Michael Widrig (Project Manager), Michael Bucher

Construction Management Annette Gigon / Mike Guyer Architects, Zurich
Collaborator: Michael Widrig

Landscape Architecture Dieter Kienast, Thomas Steinmann, Zurich

Structural Engineer Aerni + Aerni Ingenieure AG, Zurich

Colours Harald F. Müller, Öhningen, Germany

Photos © Heinrich Helfenstein

Award Auszeichnung für gute Bauten der Stadt Zürich, 2001