Creating Contemporary Living from Classic Homes

Gus Wüstemann Architects‘ House Z22 and Warehouse F88 is a complex new project uniting raw history with rawer materials, in a bold new conversion of an old family house and set of workshops into a collection of apartments and live-in ateliers. Located in the Seefeld quarter of Zürich, the building was once a multiple-family home, and its outlines are protected under city law. The challenge, then, was to create a contemporary conversion that grew creatively from its historical roots.


The old house has been split into nine separate units: the four live-in ateliers that make up Warehouse F88, and the five apartments that make House Z22. The building’s natural stone walls are exposed throughout the rooms to create a common and flowing typology. The built-in features of the apartments and the ateliers are often made from raw materials to mirror the bare walls: raw concrete, raw wood, and raw plaster.

“There is no hierarchy of material or surface,” architect Gus Wüstemann tells us of his decision to strip everything back to its origins. True enough, in a space where metal girders and stone arches are set alongside baths sunken into the concrete floor, and rooms are partitioned off with sliding OSB wooden boards.

Raw concrete is used throughout the building, like here in an apartment kitchen, to mirror the bare stone of the walls.

We asked Gus, architectural master of taking it back to basics, to break it down for us.

THE PLUS: It’s a fascinating project, Gus – how would you define its character?
Gus Wüstemann:
Our work is generally aimed at rawness; there is no need to go any further. Raw is finished, everything else is a reference to architectural and social connotations, and therefore not free from judgement.

Wooden boards bring some warmth to the sleek, industrial interior.

TP: How do you hope that exposing the raw materials will change the inhabitants’ experience of the space?
It will inform them on how things are made and where they are. They can check up with their rawness deep inside themselves. We can be raw and free: among people there should be no hierarchy. Everybody deserves the same respect.

TP: What were the differences between designing the ateliers and the apartments?
The only difference was the actual spatial context. In the flats it is a smaller intervention, communicating with the peripheral natural stone wall. In the ateliers there is a more archaic space, and the natural stone arches were the contextual frame.

Rolling straps are used to open the generous windows.

TP: How would you define the role light plays in the project?
Mostly dissolving the periphery of space, always indirect, creating a myth, and giving some direction at the same time. Light is a core element of our project, embedding the built environment and therefore connecting the tectonic context with people.

Lighting is provided by wall illumination installations spaces throughout the house.

TP: The apartments are a celebration of architectural authenticity, with the raw concrete and unplastered walls. When do you feel at your most authentic, as an architect?
Exactly when it is how you describe it. When there is nothing but pure rawness communicating with the soul of people. When there is no reference to social status or luxury, but to the wild, the people, the work. We are looking for sensuality and empathy.

Original features of the old building work are exposed throughout.

TP: You’ve combined material history with the site’s human history – how do you think this project will be seen in fifty years time?
Maybe it will be appreciated as a creative search, to make people more aware of themselves, and their surroundings, by returning everything to its core and nakedness. To use architecture as an instrument to find authenticity in ourselves – inside we are all the same.

The open-plan design allows living spaces to flow seamlessly into one another.

Members of the general public are expected to move into the space.


Atelier 1:
A sliding door made from OSB is used to partition off the open kitchen and bathroom.

The spacious, open-plan kitchen is lit, in part, from above by lighting concealed in the girder running across the ceiling.

A sunken bathtub literally immerses inhabitants in the building’s architecture.

Lighting installation in Atelier 1 draws attention to the building itself as an important presence.

Atelier 2:
A majestic bathroom is lit from behind by one of the lighting installations dotted throughout the house, complementing the room’s original arch.

Wood and concrete continuing the building’s consistent typology.

Atelier 3:
The skylights in Atelier 3 cast the raw concrete in a brighter role.

Atelier 4:
Atelier 4′s patio boxes natural space between glass walls, in another interesting natural/industrial dialogue.

Lighter and brighter, atelier 4 is an interesting accent in a complex and multi-faceted project.

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