The Baechi Foundation contracted gus wüstemann architects to build a housing block in Zurich with a high living quality on a low budget.
Given its prominent positioning above a relatively developed neighborhood, the motivation behind the design of the home was to create a residence that could meld into its surroundings while maximizing views. The three-story structure, which takes on the shape of a three-winged propeller, is wrapped in glass that mirrors its sweeping views of the Los Angeles Basin, unobstructed from the Getty Center to Long Beach, Century City, and Downtown.
When we first approached the project, the direction the design would take was not immediately clear. Balancing scale, views, and comfort would prove to be the project’s biggest programmatic challenge. The client wanted a luxurious house where she could throw large events and host her extended family, but she also wanted it to feel comfortable and welcoming. To make this work, the home required that its various zones (public/entry, family/public, and family/private) remain distinct but flow into one another with ease. Following several iterations and studies, it was determined the answer would be to distribute the spaces across three "blades," each radiating from a single node.
This central confluence - a dynamic glass and steel staircase stretching through the core of the structure - would, in fact, serve two purposes: practically, it would provide a very straightforward answer to the vast home’s circulation; visually, it would join otherwise be disparate areas in one’s line of sight. Despite its scale, the home manages to feel both warm and functional.
In all, Orum rises two stories above ground with its third floor burrowed into the hill. Programmatically, the residence has been split into three levels each consisting of three wings. The ground floor provides the entry and communal spaces for gathering, while the top floor is dedicated to the home’s private spaces.
The upper southwest and southeast wings of the home hold the master and mini-master suites, both of which are afforded 270-degree views of the city and ocean thanks to their slim profiles. In contrast, two smaller bedrooms are contained within the northern wing and embraced by the site’s adjacent hillside and rear garden, giving them an intimate feel akin to a treehouse.
The light in Los Angeles is very dynamic and can be both calming and energizing. As the site is positioned quite high above the city with almost no impediments, we wanted the house to capture the spirit of these qualities. Orum’s huge panels of glass provide inhabitants with a strong connection to nature and the daily and seasonal arcs of light.
The glass curtain wall wrapping the third floor home is a highly sophisticated system custom developed in part with Schuco/Glasbox, a leading fenestration company based in Germany. The structure utilizes five different widths of four different opacities—reflective, opaque, translucent, and clear—that as an ensemble give the structure an infinite, visually shifting, shimmering façade.
Significant testing and innovation went into developing the glass. The desire was to create a varied glazed façade, while at the same time upholding UV and SHGC ratings. This already rigorous effort was further complicated by the need to maintain a flush butt joint appearance.
The reflective, opaque, translucent, and clear treatments are in fact specialized films that were repeatedly tested and refined until the desired performance and aesthetic was achieved. The visual effect of a mullion-free system was achieved through the development of a state-of-the-art sealant. The most significant technological underpinning of this glazing system, however, focused on holding the building’s deflection to less than 1/4" (the upper wings would otherwise sag).
Also of note, Orum’s three dramatic bends are each achieved using just three pieces of curved glass at the second floor and frameless bowed floor-to-ceiling sliders at ground level by Sky-Frame. For the client's entertaining needs, the outdoor area includes a kitchen, two patios complete with fire pits, and an LED-lit pool. The main garage also serves as an event space and can be completely opened on two sides for through views.
The basement level has been outfitted with a home theatre, gym, spa, cedar sauna, service kitchen, and a wine room big enough to hold a thousand bottles. Also accessible from this floor is The Cube, an attached guesthouse designed for family and staff. The Cube is outfitted with four bedrooms, four baths, a kitchenette, and dedicated access and garage.
A highly custom residence steeped in intricacies, Orum took four years to construct.