Uster, Switzerland

From certain angles, the house resembles the gable-roofed cottages in the Swiss village of Riedikon, which dates back at least to the early 8th century, on the lake known as Greifensee, near Zurich. Come closer and you realize this house, with its pitched, tentlike roof, its strip window following the angled roofline, and its enclosing screen of 315 vertical spruce slats, rough sawn on the sides and CNC-milled on the front and back, is nothing like its neighbors. The 3,175-square-foot house, designed by Zurich firm Gramazio & Kohler Architecture and Urbanism, is a reinterpretation of the regional typology that, as the firm’s principal Matthias Kohler explains, “parametrically adapts form to context.”

The program was simple enough — a two-­bedroom, two-bath house for a young family with one small child. The polygonal volume is intended to blend in with neighboring structures and provide generous, contemporary, adaptable spaces, including a ground floor atelier with a separate entrance for an art studio. Although the brief remained constant throughout the design process, the architects found obtaining building permits for the open, light-filled spaces a challenge. “According to the building laws of the region, the maximum window size is 16 square feet, except for the exits to the garden,“ says Kohler. But, he adds, “he design of the slatted exterior allowed the screen to be legally interpreted as a wood facade, allowing large windows behind the wooden veil.”

Inside the house, the veil, although visible, does not make you think you are behind bars. Gently, even comfortingly, shadows and sunlight play upon the interior concrete walls and black-painted asphalt floors.

“The slats provide an important feeling of intimacy and warmth,” says the homeowner. “And the eye focuses on where it wants to look.” With only two entrance doors and one glazed sliding door that leads to the garden and pool, and with all windows concealed, the house is “quite radical in terms of visual accessibility,” says Kohler, explaining that although the slatted facade makes the structure look completely immured, the house is open to views and sunlight.

Extensive built-in storage throughout — including a central utility/laundry room behind the kitchen, multiple cabinets and even a wardrobe in the kitchen, sliding shelves underneath the stair, as well as diverse niches and shelves embedded in the concrete walls throughout the house — eliminated the need for a traditional underground cellar. In this way, the architects note, the house becomes a functional, private sanctuary for the family in the winter while offering itself (along with the pool) as a gathering place in the summer.


Gramazio & Kohler
Wasserwerkstrasse 129
8037 Zürich
+41 44 350 21 25
+41 44 350 21 26

Raffael Gaus (project leader), Anya Meyer, Cristian Veranasi, Manuel Bader, Damaris Baumann, Gabriel Cuellar, Peter Heckeroth, Claudia Nasri, Silvan Oesterle

ibeg bauengineering GmbH , Uster

Thomas Melliger, Zürich

Energy consulting:
Raumanzug, Zürich

Economy consulting:
Archobau AG, Chur

Ralph Bärtschi, Zürich 

Walter Mair

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
several CAD systems, custom programming of the façade design and CNC production data



TIUS AG, Riedikon

Müller Forch AG, Forch

Façade and roofing:
Buob Holzbau AG, Luzern

M. Kneubühler AG, Menznau

Wood cladding:
Blumer-Lehmann AG, Gossau

Albert Marty AG, Richterswil

Exterior doors and metalwork:
LIPS MSM AG, Dietikon

H. Kreiner AG, Zürich

Special proofing and insulation:
Waldvogel AG, Uster

Daniel Fäh, Egg b. Zürich

Ganz Installationen AG, Volketswil

KWT, Belp

Lenzlinger AG, Uster

Steinit AG, Zürich

Max Schweizer AG, Zürich

Sun shading:
Griesser AG, Dietlikon

Asphalt flooring:
Weber-Asphalt AG, Zürich

Floor sealing:
AGF, Zürich

Pool equipment:
Gauka Schwimmbad, Zuchwil

Kohler Natur- und Energiegarten GmbH, Weisslingen

Building cleaning:
Swissclean, Wetzikon