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Plane Sailing: House in Riehen by Reuter Raeber Architects

AR_EA 2016 Finalist: A pared-down palette juxtaposing wood, concrete, steel and glass eschews Swiss tradition

House in riehen site plan

House in riehen site plan

The house by Reuter Raeber Architects in the Swiss municipality of Riehen has a pleasing dynamism. In plan, the long terrace looks poised to swing around the house’s core, and the north elevation’s facade looks as though it should slide shut across the cross-braced opening. Neither happens – but when the practice expresses a preoccupation with ‘static equilibriums’ and ‘counterplays’ it begins to feel like the more deliberate eschewal of a traditional Swiss staticity.

This counterplay is not just one of potential motion, but a material one, ‘wood for its precise handcraft … concrete for its rawness and potential to be sculpted … and steel for its robustness’. As such, a wood and steel structure sits atop a heavy concrete base, the points of connection being the fireplace (a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright) and at the rear of the stairs where the wooden construction continues to ground level.

House in riehen plans

House in riehen plans

Floor plans

‘In Switzerland we savour a high standard of construction and precision … but we think that our environment could change very easily’, say Patrick Reuter and Lukas Raeber. Both are keenly aware of architecture’s relative position within broader politics and contexts – and state travel abroad is a continuous source of inspiration – but are equally keen not to let this turn into cynicism with their own context in Basel, Switzerland: ‘History has shown that in times of change the most valuable and advanced creations have been developed.’

Large glazed areas offset the solidity of the concrete supporting layer – with the kitchen opening onto the terrace to create a ‘summer kitchen’ if weather permits – while the bedroom sits above, a typical separation of public and private marked by internal treatments of concrete on the ground floor and wood on the first. As the most advanced project the firm has worked on, if their belief that ‘each project grows in idealness’ holds true, the future looks bright. ‘We’re at the beginning of our professional career … we simply concentrate on doing a good job, and architecture that lasts.’

House in riehen section

House in riehen section

Section AA

House in Riehen

Architect: Reuter Raeber Architects

Project Team: Patrick Reuter and Lukas Raeber 

Structural engineer: WMM Engineers

Photographs: Eik Frenzel