Homage to the square: house inspired by Josef Albers

A famous series of artworks by the German painter inspired the architectural composition of a single-family residence in the Greater Toronto Area.

German artist Josef Albers (1888-1976) is known and remembered for his research in painting, colour, and teaching at the Bauhaus. One of his most famous works is undoubtedly “Homage to the Square”: a series of more than a thousand pieces executed over a period of about 25 years (from 1950 until his death), including paintings, drawings, prints and tapestries. The entire series was based on a mathematically determined format of several squares, which appear to be superimposed or interconnected into each other. This geometric abstraction was Albers’ model for exploring the subjective experience of colour.

The painter’s influence extends to the present day and to the field of architecture. Indeed, there is an explicit reference to his work in Casa Albers, a recently completed single-family residence by Atelier RZLBD in the greater Toronto area.

This diagram by Atelier RZLBD shows how the concept for Casa Albers was clearly inspired by the German painter’s work
This diagram by Atelier RZLBD shows how the concept for Casa Albers was clearly inspired by the German painter’s work

The Canadian firm’s project revolutionises an existing home both inside and out, adding a second level. It formally purifies the original architecture by removing any structure accessory to the home. One of the few remaining elements is the interior staircase, which is incorporated in the new square scheme inspired by Albers. This concept interprets the laws of local zoning, which permit a larger surface area for the upper floors. The result is a pile of staggered square volumes, with a central triple-height void that includes a skylight and staircase.

The program of the house is arranged around this functional spine, in accordance with the unifying spatial order. On the outside, the building presents an abstract geometry and various shades of grey. Its formal essentiality is for the architects a remedy to the cluttered context.

Casa Albers
Atelier RZLBD
Project leader:
Reza Aliabadi
James Chungwon Park
Structural engineering:
TEG Structures
Ramin Riahi
Maxamin Homes
Scarborough, Greater Toronto Area, Canada
465 sqm

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