An artist friend (http://www.annemariegraf.ch/) asked us to design a double apartment building in the town of Frauenfeld, Switzerland. Her wish was to have an open, ‘lofty’ floor plan in which she could live and work, containing also a second unit, which would on a smaller scale have the same qualities as the main apartment.
The building site is located on a slope towards the edge of town. How to set the building volume onto this slope shaped the building concept from the very beginning of the design process. Our goal was to create a design that is embedded well into the low rise neighbourhood and allows for both living units to have their own address and outdoor space. This lead to a floor plan which is diagonally projected into the slope, which in turn created a split-level situation.
Distributing the building programme onto several, spatially connected split-levels helped creating the openness requested by the client which - due to the limited area available - would not have been possible with a regular floor plan on this specific site.
To achieve the spatial effect of an open split-level situation we had to develop a structure which structurally supported this idea. We came up with a concrete structure whose beams would switch direction depending on which split-level they were supporting, allowing to position the stairs without structural difficulties. This direction of support was then also shown in they way the form work was laid out.
It was important to us to completely separate structure, facade and interior, allowing different spatial configurations in the future. Thats why the concrete structure is enveloped by a structurally independent, wooden facade covered in wood-cement panels (duripanel).
On the inside, a minimalist approach to materials is used. All internal spatial separations are dry walls or carpenter work. Black metal is used throughout the project; The fireplace, railings and the stairs onto the terrace. To contrast the concrete ceiling, we used a white-oiled oak floor.
Using 3D printing, several individual details were designed and prototyped: Among others, the bathroom lamps, towel holders and toilet paper holders are of our own design.
Creating this split-level design in fair faced concrete and not being able to hide any errors was no easy feat. Since the two living units are spatially intertwined horizontally and vertically, it was paramount to have all boundaries under perfect control. To communicate our design ideas to our client and later on facilitate the planning and construction phase, we started to experiment with 3d walkthroughs Using Unity 3d.