취리히의 이 곳은 예전 블루칼라 지역이었던 곳으로, 오피스 빌딩과 제조공장들이 이웃해 있는 곳이다. 지역건축관행인 E2A에 의해 설계된 이 빌딩 블록은 개별적으로 조절이 가능한 슬라이딩 윈도우가 반복적 패턴으로 연속되어 있어, 하나 이상의 창이 열릴 때마다 규칙적인 격자가 나타나게 된다. 어쩌면 이 단순한 디자인의 제스처는 직교좌표의 완전함과 기하학적 추상화같은 느낌을 정교하게 드러내는 외관으로 보는 사람으로 하여금 창의적이면서도 재미있는 느낌을 준다.
Discretely towering over the neighbouring office buildings and manufacturing plants in Altstetten, a former blue-collar district of Zurich that is now home to many large corporations, the tall plane-like volume of the Deaconry Bethanien building both blends into and stands out from its surroundings. Designed by local architectural practice E2A, the slim building block is completely enveloped by a repetitive pattern of individually adjustable sliding windows whose orderly grid is intermittently unsettled every time one or more of them are opened. This simple design gesture, which ingeniously makes the facade oscillate between a paragon of Cartesian perfection and a canvas of geometric abstraction, echoes the district’s generic corporate architecture in a more creative and playful fashion.
The rationalist uniformity of the building’s exterior belies its mixed-use character. The 12-storey block is the new headquarters of Swiss social and community healthcare provider Diakonie Bethanien and includes a palliative care facility, daycare, a specialized medical facility, and classrooms, as well as a hotel with a conference room, bar and restaurant. In order to accommodate such varied functions in a building with such an oblong footprint, the architects have combined a series of compact circulation and services cores with load-bearing exterior walls that allowed for column-free floor plans so that each floor can accommodate a custom layout best suited to its programmatic requirements.
A minimalist décor of clean lines and a subdued colour palette of mainly polished and board form concrete surfaces imbue the interiors with a meditative ambience, while light wooden floors and wall panelling in the living quarters add warmth. The predominance of concrete, some of which was poured on site while other parts where prefabricated, reflects both the building’s structural design and its solidity. The austere aesthetic of the interiors also serves another purpose: it allows the expansive views out of the oversized windows to take centre stage. Three metres wide and two meters high, the windows undoubtedly are the main architectural feature in every space. Moreover, taking advantage of the wall thickness, some of the window-niches have been equipped with work benches while others feature balustrades so that they can be utilized as balconies, reflecting the same playful sensibility that the cubic building sports from the outside.