Wounds, Malevich and Concrete Dreams
This 1961 two-storey single family home was originally designed by Rolf Müller and lies on the southwestern edge of Allschwil, a village on the outskirts of Basel. The first thing that hits the eyes is the striking monopitch roof in corrugated eternit. Next, you notice the red window frames. The painted brickwork, exposed concrete and metal railings in fine wire infill reflect the bold optimism of the early 60s. But this is not your perfectly sleek brutalist revamp. This house is not afraid to show its wounds and cracks amidst the contemporary art, suprematist-inspired murals and neo-brutalist architectural statements.
First, let’s talk about the injuries: between 1965 and 1972 further conversions and exensions where added, dealing a severe blow to the building’s personality. Fast forward to 2019 and to yet another revamp. Luckily for the house, the job went to Buchner Bründler architects, a youngish Basel-based practice with neo-brutalist leanings. Their first job was to mend the multiple fractures, wounds and traumas. Having restored the architecture’s integrity, the architect devised a brand new colour concept in black, white and green. Deep black wooden formwork made of maritime pine clad the new wall surfaces surfaces while the subfloor was painted green. The exposed concrete shower area is a brutalist lover’s dream come true. The former garage now houses the master bedroom, and is an all-black affair. Malevich greets via a green circle and black square mural adorning the side wall in the overheight and open-plan living area. But the pièce-de-resistance is undoubtedly the guest room. The small, glass-and-concrete cube extension features two large circular windows. The conversion acts as the house’s new and confident signature, closing, so the speak, the circle to Rolf Müller’s ground-breaking original design.
The current residents have embellished the house’s colourful architectural history and radical personality with lashings of modern art and design objects and an eclectic mix of retro and contemporary furnishings. But this is a far cry from the highly stylised designer sterility many Swiss interiors suffer from, and which make you wonder where the dirty stuff is hiding. These guys definitely love to live in their home and take their design inspo more from Apartamento than Ideales Heim. The atmosphere is relaxed, warm and welcoming.
Ps: I had the chance the visit the house on the occasion of Open House Basel 2021. It was a great early Summer afternoon. Kids where frolicking in the pool, while Nick Cave provided accoustic rainbow showers from the speakers. A brief respite from mid-pandemic times, just what the doctor ordered. This house tour / architectural therapy session will be etched forever in my memory as the first trip back to normality.