“Palladio with a twist”: a contemporary villa by Herzog & de Meuron and Sauter Von Moos

Digitally milled window frames, a pediment portal and a “stroller temple” provide playful links between this renovated 19th-century villa and its modern counterpart in Basel, Switzerland.

Villa Hammer, Herzog & de Meuron e Sauter von Moos, 2018

A “radical use of the ornament”, is how architects Charlotte von Moos and Florian Sauter describe the referential detailing of the new apartment building built in the back garden of the neo-baroque villa.

The Swiss duo worked with another Swiss duo – Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog – on the project, which also involved the gentle restoration of the dilapidated Villa Hammer to create a daycare centre in the Kleinbasel neighbourhood of the city. 

Built in 1895 to a design by the German architect Heinrich Flügel, the villa bears grand ornately framed windows topped with pediments and arched lintels, and a broad overhanging roof.

Seeking to tie, yet distinguish, the two-storey addition from its historical neighbour, the architects borrowed these details to enrich the apartment building, but with their own twist.

Digitally milled wood replaces chiselled stone for the columnar windows that illuminate the upper floor of the block, and a prefabricated structure of wood and steel supersedes on-site constriction.

A 4D CNC machine, which caused some jealously among local carpenters, produced wooden frames with a striking horizontal pattern of cuts. 

Villa Hammer, Herzog & de Meuron e Sauter von Moos, 2018
Chiselled stone is swapped for digitally milled wood for the ornaments that embellish the apartment building

Slatted shutters can be rolled down over the glass plinth, which the upper storey sits. Their horizontal lines echo the grooves on the window frames. 

“The ornaments were done in dialogue with the old building,” says Florian Sauter. “The addition is making use of a lot of classical components in terms of its general arrangement — it’s a centralised building on top of a dematerialised plinth — but also its employment of a strong geometrical order.”

“The main issue was how do you do something with respect to the classical age and at the same time make it look like a building of 2018 – how do you give it a twist that makes it appear contemporary?” he explains.

“It’s always much easier to just emulate the past, but our interest is typically to be on the progressive side, of exploring how you can do something fresh and new.”

Villa Hammer, Herzog & de Meuron e Sauter von Moos, 2018
A "neo-post-baroque portal” leads to the garden where the apartments stand alongside a bicycle and "stroller temple”

Taking this play one step further, a stand-alone “neo-post-baroque portal” leads to the garden where the apartments stand alongside a bicycle and "stroller temple”.

The two Swiss architecture duos teamed up for the project, having previously worked together on a number of projects over the last five years, including House with a Tree – a reconfiguration of a 1930s house in Basel.

The projects share a prefabricated wooden construction, and details including the exquisite placement of a drainpipe outlet.

“These small houses are testing grounds for Herzog & de Meuron,” say Sauter von Moos, whice sees the techniques for this project going on to be upscaled for larger projects.

Villa Hammer
Herzog & de Meuron, Sauter von Moos
Merz Kley Engineers and Schnetzer Puskas Engineers, Waldhauser + Hermann Mechanical Engineers, Vogt Landscape Architects, Rapp Group Cost Planning
1005 sqm

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