Cream dreams are made of this: architect Justus Dahinden’s brutalist private home in the Witikon end of Zurich’s leafy Zurichberg looks like straight out of a glossy 70s interior magazine. A world where sprayed concrete walls dissolve into fluffy, beige shag piles and sunken camel leather lounges. Have I mentioned the swimming pool? And don’t get me started on the. Kitchen.
It comes in the overwhelming, orange-tiled totality no child of the seventies will ever be able to get out of their minds. Re-seeing it blasts me right back to a long forgotten place in my toddler life that looks and feels like a cross between The Ice Storm and The Shining. It is oddly comforting. Holy moly, where a house tour on a perfectly unsuspecting September afternoon can take you.
Back to the architecture. Designed in 1971 with a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water House, the family home is intended to work as a multi-level spatial continuum. Its private life is disreetly tucked away from view behind dense greenery and fortress-style walls in sprayed concrete. By contrast, the interior doesn’t hold back on panoramic views across the Glarner Alps. The ground floor comprises areas for work, guests and kids. A spiral staircase leads up to the open-plan living room, kitchen, master bedroom and en-suite bathroom.
The concrete, fixtures and most of the furniture have never been changed or modernised, only maintained. Gone however, is Dahinden’s elaborate collection of Russian icons, and only a small element of the Andalusian wooden wall covering remains in the living area. In their place, a Terje Ekstrom “Ekstrem” chair and a cheeky painting here and a ceramics detail there do a great job as carefully-curated antidotes to the slightly musty-feeling, hard-edged masculine vibe.
It is the kind of interior fantasy fashion editors drool over and would kill for to use as a backdrop for, say, a 70’s bourgeois chic shoot. Unfortunately for them, art came first. In fact, what you see is part of Open Curtain, a joint project between the current residents, architect Marco Bakker and Dorothee Messmer, director of Kunstmuseum Olten, and artist Clare Goodwin. Staged across the house, it features Goodwin’s painted over source images of the home alongside works from Kunstmuseum Olten dating from the early 1970s or created by artists deemed at their peak during the period. The handmade quilts in the bedroom are loaned from designer and architect Sina Buxtorf.
This is smart. Who wants to live in a design museum? The heavily-stylised and impossibly photogenic interior design offers an on-point comment on the present day obsession with the personal as performance for public display. In any case, the spirit of Justus Dahinden lingers on, Dorothee Messmer reassures, in the slight scent of his favourite tobacco greeting the couple after a holiday (the architect lived in his home until 2017). She happily describes herself as a guest at “Hotel Dahinden”.
Dahinden House is up for sale for 3.3 mio Swiss francs. Prospective custodians are expected to have extensive renovation works done in close consultation with Mr Dahinden’s son. For everyone else: my money is on investing in a large cream shag pile rug.
Update 06.01.20: Dahinden House is no longer on the market