Buchen Housing Estate
Würenlingen, Switzerland
1989 - 1996

Photos courtesy Santiago Calatrava archives

Santiago Calatrava was commissioned to design the Buchen Housing development by Remer Real Estate, a former subsidiary of Portland Cement, during the manufacturing of the Swissbau Pavilion where he was investigating the structural and aesthetic qualities of concrete.

The client stipulated that the primary building material be concrete, and that all exterior walls be molded and prefabricated, which demanded a rationalization in the number of cast elements.

The site on the outskirts of the small town of Würenlingen, adjacent to a conventional housing development commissioned by the client from various architects, is high density but without major urban centers.  The client later acquired the parcel of land bordering a wooded area to the north.

Calatrava¹s design includes two types of residences; freestanding units and eighteen terraced houses oriented toward the woods.
Due to changing economic conditions it was decided this concept for the terraced houses was easier to realize as a first stage.

The 110 square meter, three-story units, the first six completed in 1997, are organized in a sweeping crescent. The entrance, dining room and kitchen, with a basement in the back, are reached via a glazed front entrance.
Because of the slope in the terrain the basement is recessed into the hill creating a roof top patio for the mezzanine lounge.

The overhanging bedrooms, on the upper floor of each group, create a common entrance arcade delineated by the inclined supports to the front.  The facades are fully glazed to admit light into the interiors.

The detached houses are arranged In two rows facing each other across a central, underground car park, which runs the length of the site. The car park is illuminated through glass bricks in the arched roof, which also forms the surface of an axial footpath running between the houses.

Due to the density of the development, and to maximize the intermediate space at ground level,  the main accommodation is placed on an upper, overhanging level.
The kitchen and dining room protrude into a glazed atrium, beneath the overhang, where a lounge forms a mezzanine on the upper level.  Bedrooms are on the main level, laundry and technical services in the basement.
Each slender support tapers towards the base, further minimizing the area occupied by each house, permitting glimpses across the estate and enhancing the play of light.

Client: Remer Real Estate