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Thursday, 21 February 2019

Gus Wüstemann creates affordable apartment block almost entirely from concrete


Gus Wüstemann affordable concrete housing in Zurich


Concrete-lined living spaces extend out onto angular balconies at this low-cost housing block in Zurich, designed by locally based studio Gus Wüstemann.


The monolithic block is surrounded by 1950s housing in the suburb of Albisrieden. It was designed by the Swiss architecture studio for the Baechi Foundation and contains nine apartments.

Gus Wüstemann affordable concrete housing in Zurich

The new block is slotted in among its linear neighbours, with the aim of offering affordable housing with a high quality of living based on the provision of ample natural light, privacy and generosity of space.


Each floor of the angular building accommodates a three-bedroom units at its wider end and a smaller two-bedroom apartment at the other end. A one-bedroom residence occupies one side of the roof, with the other side providing a communal terrace.

Gus Wüstemann affordable concrete housing in Zurich

A staircase and lift are positioned between the residential units, which feature living spaces occupying large openings carved into the solid concrete volume.

"Morphologically [the building] is a solid concrete block, organically formed, from which two courtyards were cut out," explained Gus Wüstemann.

"In these courtyards the living spaces float like bridges, from the morning sun to the evening sun."

Gus Wüstemann affordable concrete housing in Zurich

Living areas of each apartment are lined on both sides by sliding glass doors that can be retracted to open the rooms up to the open air. Spaces are connected by cantilevered concrete balconies or terraces that are protected from the sun and unwanted overlooking by slatted roller blinds.




To reduce costs, the budget was focused on a couple of key interventions that define the overall quality of space: the sliding windows and the inclusion of built-in floating benches in the living areas.

Gus Wüstemann affordable concrete housing in Zurich

The architecture studio described the cast-concrete interiors as a form of topography that defines the spaces and incorporates functional elements such as the benches and wardrobes.

Walls inside the apartments feature textured surfaces created by casting concrete in formwork made from oriented strand board.

Gus Wüstemann affordable concrete housing in Zurich

Gus Wüstemann used the same technique for the exterior and interior of another Zurich apartment block, as well as for the interiors of a 19th-century building converted into nine flats.

Throughout the block concrete floors flow throughout the living spaces, bathrooms and into the bedrooms, where they contrast with an area floored with wood to give it a more intimate feel.

Gus Wüstemann affordable concrete housing in Zurich

Wood is also used for details such as windows frames, doors and kitchen units, which incorporate a fold-out surface that provides extra worktop space.

In the three-bedroom apartments, a large sliding door that purposely does not touch the ground separates the bathroom from the common living space. A smaller concrete bench projects from the wall just outside the bathroom.

Photography is by Bruno Helbling.

Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio unveil designs for Sidewalk Labs' Toronto neighbourhood


Quayside at Sidewalk Toronto by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio


Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs has tapped Thomas Heatherwick's studio and architecture firm Snøhetta to develop proposals for the smart, mass-timber city that the company is developing on Toronto's waterfront.


Renderings by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio were used to illustrate a document outlining the updated concepts and proposals for Sidewalk Toronto, a project under development by Sidewalk Labs – a subsidiary of Google's parent company – and partner Waterfront Toronto.

Quayside at Sidewalk Toronto by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio
The Sidewalk Toronto update features a visual by Snøhetta that depicts two high-rises linked by a curved structure

Released 14 February 2019, the Project Update focuses on the development of the 12-acre (9.5-hectare) Quayside neighbourhood at Parliament Slip – east of the city's Downtown area on the edge of Lake Ontario. The site makes up a small portion of the Sidewalk Toronto's scheme, which was first unveiled last year and billed as a "future city", and is intended as a test bed for later expansion.


Advancing on Sidewalk's August 2018 update of the parcel, which revealed plans to construct buildings from local and renewable Canadian timber, Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio's designs are all wooden.

Quayside at Sidewalk Toronto by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio
Snøhetta has also designed an interior courtyard detailed with a gridded wooden construction

Visuals by Snøhetta include an exterior image of a pair of high-rises linked by a curved structure. While their uses are not explicit, it is likely the buildings could form part of the housing that Sidewalk Labs plans to include in the new town.

These include models of co-living for singles and purpose-built family dwellings, as well as affordable housing totalling 80 per cent of the accommodation – much more than the average 26 per cent provided in Toronto developments. The amount would also be four times that typically offered in a waterfront development.

Quayside at Sidewalk Toronto by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio
Heatherwick's proposals include a design for Google's Canadian HQ

Snøhetta's interior view reveals an exposed gridded wooden construction that outlines a courtyard, showcasing one of the many public arenas intended for the site. A large tree grows up the centre, while translucent screens offer glimpses inside the buildings.

Meanwhile, Heatherwick Studio has produced designs for the Google Canadian headquarters at the site, following the firm's work with BIG on the tech company's new California campus and London HQ.




The Sidewalk Toronto HQ, which is intended to bring more Google jobs in the eastern waterfront, features a sunken circular courtyard topped with a bubbly roof, and curvilinear wooden balconies and a bubbly roof.

Similar organic forms can be found in Heatherwick's proposal for another courtyard and a waterfront complex, where buildings are fronted with rounded, slatted balconies. Depicted in snowy conditions, the waterside site also features the "building coats" that would be drawn over to protect the woodwork from harsh weather conditions.

Quayside at Sidewalk Toronto by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio
Curvaceous balconies front the proposal by the British studio, which spills onto the waterfront

Heatherwick Studio has also developed the Innovation Centre, which Sidewalk Labs intends as a hub for startups and tech companies.

Sidewalk Toronto, which was first unveiled in October 2017, aims to address many urban issues – like affordable housing, traffic congestion and safety, and environmental problems – with smart designs. Sidewalk Labs urban planner Rohit Aggarwala said it could provide a model for cities to use the latest technologies in urban design, in an interview with Dezeen last year.

Quayside at Sidewalk Toronto by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio
Heatherwick Studio has also developed a scheme for the Innovation Centre, intended as an incubator for startups

Following this ethos, the company chose mass timber construction for the neighbourhood to provide an example of an affordable and sustainable built environment. The cradle-to-cradle construction forms part of a wider environmental strategy, along with comprehensive recycling and composting systems, and underground, robotic trash disposal.

The wooden construction would also support the Canada's timber industry.




The first visuals for the Quayside project were completed by Michael Green Architecture – the firm behind the largest mass-timber building in United States. These explored two types of engineered wood: cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber, also known as Glulam, which are both significantly stronger than standard wood.

The proposal includes public spaces that are built "modular kit of parts" so that they could easily be rearranged for different uses. Other forward-thinking details in the proposed neighbourhood are the integration of autonomous vehicles and the introduction of larger curbs.

Quayside at Sidewalk Toronto by Snøhetta and Heatherwick Studio
The duo's designs focus on the development of the 12-acre (9.5-hectare) Quayside neighbourhood at Parliament Slip

In the latest update, the team developed plans for sourcing data from residents living in the neighbourhood. This had formed a point of contention for many, particularly after the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, which saw data allegedly used to influence voters in political campaigns.

However, the revised scheme suggests the establishment of an independent Civic Data Trust, which will de-identify all personal markers before using the data.