The new apartment houses in Thalwil by Fischer Architekten and Vetschpartner Landschaftsarchitekten replace earlier residential buildings and introduce new ideas about outdoor space to their suburban context. The principal elements of the project include the carefully worked-out design of the outdoor spaces and the multi-layered wooden facade with its layers of continuous balconies. A subtly balanced colour concept and durable, high quality materials make a significant contribution to the agreeable atmosphere created by these rental apartments. –
In urban design terms the concept embarks upon new paths in an existing context. The structure of the existing suburban housing development is characterised by flat apartment buildings with their eaves facing the road. These are combined with a green distance strip at the front, framed by hedges and in many cases without a path, so that any form of permeability in the district is suppressed – a lost chance in a quiet residential quarter where, if suitable spaces were available, neighbourly contacts could be made and children could play safely on the street.
The new buildings respond to the roads that run along three sides of the site with slightly bent facades that contain the street spaces while at the same time forming places to arrive at. On this side the apartment houses are long buildings that stand on the street, whereas at the back they are more like point buildings that between them create a flowing space containing several spatial “chambers” which respect the existing trees. A number of these niches extend as far as the street where they form areas with a more public quality that weave the mesh of outdoor spaces together with the street and the neighbourhood. Logically, these spatial “chambers” do not contain any private areas but solely carefully designed communal spaces that can be used in a variety of ways.
While the three apartment buildings that make up the ensemble are closely related to each other they are not identical. Continuous balcony layers of different depths mediate between inside and outside space. A recessed plinth makes the timber buildings seem to hover above the slightly sloping ground. The balcony and facade engage in a dialogue which manifests itself in the construction of the balcony out of posts, floor slabs and beams and in the rear-ventilated wood facade with its cladding of vertical boards. The carefully balanced colour concept that enables the various layers of the facade to be more clearly perceived is continued in the interior of the apartments, each of which faces in three directions.