Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 385 5757
In contrast to many other of our projects, even after months of planning, we still did not know how the house would look from the outside. We designed everything from the inside out, starting with a courtyard around which the different types of day and night-time living would be organized in spatial layers. These spaces then began to penetrate – vertically and horizontally. The inner courtyard was to be both an interior and an exterior space. Conversely, we wanted to bring the outside space, that is to say the immediate surroundings – the garden with its tall trees and the view of the city in the distance, right into the house. Initially, we did not want a clearly demarcated external enclosure, rather, the aim was to turn the interior space ‘inside out’. The complete glazing of the exterior surfaces, which would create open spatial references in more or less every direction, was out of the question because the house also had to convey a certain weight and connection with the soil. Anyone standing in front of the building´s dark and smooth slate-like surface can feel its weight and volume.
However the irregular, dark colouring of the rendering also recalls something organic and soft, such as animal skin, especially in contrast with the sharp-edged glass panes of the sliding windows which form the outer protective layer of the building. These sliding glass walls, installed externally instead of internally, are actually an expression of a kind of inside-out world: the window – the classic element of the interior space – is turned outwards. We look at the house from the outside through the window, which forms the boundary of the interior space. Because of the sliding movements of the enormous panes of glass and their effect on the dark surface, the external appearance of the house is constantly changing. While each window is located at a single point in the facade, this point appears to move from side to side with the sliding sashes mirroring the daily lives of the people in the house.
The facade strategy freed us from all compositional constraints: the windows are ‘both here and there’, sometimes close to each other, sometimes further apart. This meant that we were really free in the organization of the ground plan. The structural engineering of the house is a concrete image of this plan and the organization of the interior space. As with a house of cards, the walls and facade elements also correspond to the static fields of force of the building.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1996
The slope prior to construction.
Entrance on the basement floor.
Façade opening facing southwest.
The windows sit on top of the plaster like individual volumes.
A house that looks as though it was cut out of the slope with a knife.
The stucco-lustro plaster lives with the weather: southeast façade facing the garden. The movement of the sliding doors changes the façade. At night, the inside steps outside as an image.
A house that’s like a crystal: the glazed inner courtyard at the center of the house.
The upper floor opens up towards the sun and southwest. The roof can be shut and turns the courtyard into an interior room.
Interior and exterior permeate each other: the transparent yard mediates between the different sections of the house. The biotope on the upper floor is turned by 90 degrees.
Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron 1992-1996. The Complete Works. Volume 3.” Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Chinese ed. Beijing, China Architecture & Building Press, 2010. Vol. No. 3.
Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2007.” 2nd rev. ed. Madrid, Arquitectura Viva, 2007.
Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): “El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 1981-2000. Between the Face and the Landscape. The Cunning of Cosmetics. Entre el Rostro y el Paisaje. La Astucia de la Cosmética.” 2nd adv. and rev. ed. Vol. No. 60+84, Madrid, El Croquis, 2005.
Jacques Herzog, Sabine Kraft, Christian Kühn: “Mit allen Sinnen spüren. Jacques Herzog im Gespräch mit Sabine Kraft und Christian Kühn.” In: Sabine Kraft, Nikolaus Kuhnert, Günther Uhlig (Eds.). “Archplus. Zeitschrift für Architektur und Städtebau. Architektur natürlich.” Vol. No. 142, Aachen, ARCH+ Verlag GmbH, 07.1998. pp. 32-39.
Wilfried Wang: “Herzog & de Meuron.” 3rd adv. and rev. ed. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 1998. (= Studiopaperback).