19/018

Weyell Zipse &
Hörner

Architectural Practice
Basel

index-col-06_Museum_of_the_20th_century_Phase-II

«We try to build up our work by layering abstract ideas, memories of places, and notions of political and social relations, that together form a complex constellation in built reality.»

«We try to build up our work by layering abstract ideas, memories of places, and notions of political and social relations, that together form a complex constellation in built reality.»

«We try to build up our work by layering abstract ideas, memories of places, and notions of political and social relations, that together form a complex constellation in built reality.»

«We try to build up our work by layering abstract ideas, memories of places, and notions of political and social relations, that together form a complex constellation in built reality.»

«We try to build up our work by layering abstract ideas, memories of places, and notions of political and social relations, that together form a complex constellation in built reality.»

Please, introduce yourself and your studio...

We are a practice based in Basel and run by three partners: Christian Weyell, Kai Zipse and Stefan Hörner. We recently merged our two offices, Weyell Zipse Architekten and Hörner Architekten, to form one company.
Both Stefan and us started to work independently around 2015, after having worked in different offices in international environments for a longer period. We are currently working on a range of projects in different scales:
An urban masterplan, housing, schools, a single-family house, as well as a small bar.

What are your experiences founding Weyell Zipse & Hörner and working as self-employed architects? When and why did you decide to partner up? Which project started your practice?

We were lucky to be able to win a couple of competitions quite early on. Christian and I started to work together by doing a small scale open competition for a daycare building in St. Gallen, where we got a 2nd prize. It gave us confidence that it was possible to compete successfully in a professional environment, and the prize money provided us with a financial buffer to start the practice.

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Soemmerliwiese, St. Gallen, Competition Entry, 2nd Prize

Soemmerliwiese, St. Gallen, Competition Entry, 2nd Prize

Next to doing competitions, we were both teaching at ETH Zurich: Christian with Kees Christiaanse, and me with Adam Caruso. Stefan was teaching with Harry Gugger at EPF Lausanne, so we all have a teaching background at Swiss universities. This is quite a classic way for architects to start their practice in Switzerland, since most people don`t have a profitable commission right from the start. Most of all, we are very happy to have had that opportunity, because we regard teaching as a fundamental part of architectural practice - you equally learn from the research and teaching at school as the students you teach. 
 
A while later, we won an urban competition to do a masterplan for the center of Grenzach-Wyhlen, a small town in Germany, across the border from Basel (in collaboration with Kretz & Salewski Architects from Zurich).

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Masterplan for the town center of Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany, Competition Entry, 1st Prize

Masterplan for the town center of Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany, 1st Prize

Masterplan for the town center of Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany, 1st Prize

Masterplan for the town center of Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany, Competition Entry, 1st Prize

From the beginning of our practice, we tried to work in different scales and programs, rather than specializing in specific fields. Parallel to that, we were lucky to receive the commission to design a single-family house in Stralsund, in northern Germany, which gave us the opportunity to realize our first building. The project kept accompanying us throughout the last 3 years and is scheduled to be completed in mid 2019.

From the beginning of our practice, we tried to work in different scales and programs, rather than specializing in specific fields. Parallel to that, we were lucky to receive the commission to design a single-family house in Stralsund, in northern Germany, which gave us the opportunity to realize our first building. The project kept accompanying us throughout the last 3 years and is scheduled to be completed in early 2019.

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04_Stralsund_Baustelle

Single-Family House, Stralsund, Commissioned project

Single-Family House, Stralsund, Commissioned project

In 2015, we entered the “Museum of the 20th century” competition together with Stefan [Hörner] in a collaboration, and won a prize amongst 460 participants, which granted the opportunity to participate in the realization competition in 2016. It was a very exciting time, to be able to compete with four Pritzker Prize winners and other high-profile offices and make an architectural contribution to this important location. It also showed us that there are certain qualities that each of our characters possess, that together could work in a productive and fruitful way.

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Museum of the 20th Century, Berlin, 2015, Competition Entry, Phase I

Museum of the 20th Century, Berlin, 2015,
Competition Entry, Phase I

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Museum of the 20th Century, Berlin, 2016, Competition Entry, Phase II

Museum of the 20th Century, Berlin, 2016,
Competition Entry, Phase II

Later on, we collaborated again with Stefan for the competition of the School-Campus in Binningen near Basel, which we won in 2017. This was when we decided to join our two practices, which can be seen in the name Weyell Zipse & Hörner.

Binningen_Ansicht-Bild_S

School Campus, Binningen, 2017, Competition Entry, 1st Prize

School Campus, Binningen, 2017,
Competition Entry, 1st Prize

The project that really gives us the opportunity to build up an office is Guggach III, a competition that we won in 2018, in collaboration with Donet Schäfer Reimer Architects from Zurich. The project consists of housing with retail and kindergarten, as well as a primary school and is located in Zurich.

How would you characterize Basel as a location for practicing architecture? How is the context of this place influencing your work?

Switzerland is, at the moment, an exceptionally good location to practice architecture in Europe, if not in the world. There is a very well working competition system, with a range of open, selective and invited procedures, with a consciousness to support young practices. In German-speaking Switzerland, Zurich is the main hub, being the location with the biggest school, ETH, as well as a vast number of interesting offices. Basel has less offices than Zurich, but not being less relevant: besides a couple of big players with international reputation, there are many small-scale practices, that contribute to a diverse architectural scene. You could maybe say that Basel is characterized by a certain openness towards architectural language, whereas in Zurich there is more of a shared discourse amongst offices. 
Basel has a rich cultural offer with globally recognized art institutions, which we find very inspiring. Being located at the border of Germany and France, internationality was always present, and it might be for a reason that a lot of architects in Basel tend work in an international context early on in their career.

What does your working space look like? 

We just moved into a new office space in the harbor of Basel, with a view to the water. It is on the edge of the city, in a rather industrial setting, we really enjoy the calmness of the water and the movement of industrial production around us.

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What is the essence of architecture for you personally?

That is a big question to answer. Architecture is a cultural discipline that shapes our being in this world. You could say that it should above most of all enhance the quality of life in general. But it also has to offer more. I recently read a text by Kazuo Shinohara, who writes that architecture should always have something universal and specific. Specific, because you operate in a pragmatic framework of issues you have to fulfil. And universal, because in order for it to become really architecture and not just building, it needs to point to something bigger. In the end we practice an artistic cultural production, that leaves traces and stimulates emotions in the back of our head, even if you don’t always understand everything you see. It is a bit like seeing a good work of art. We try to build up our work by layering abstract ideas, memories of places, and notions of political and social relations, that together form a complex constellation in built reality.

How do you communicate / present Architecture?

We use a wide range of means, from model building to collages and renderings, as well as the classical type of drawings. We are skeptical towards the development of VR and such types of representation. The ambition to be as real as possible tends to lead to an unsatisfying poor copy of reality itself. On the contrary, it is astonishing that our brain has the capacity to construct the image of a place out of a limited amount of visual information through the use of memories; for instance when we look at an impressionist painting. We believe that there lies a great potential in this freedom of imagination in architectural representation. We realized that it helps us to condense ideas in rather abstract drawings, which we often use for communicating an architectural concept in competitions. This is not merely a representational device for us, but a toolto develop the design and presence of a building.

What has to change in the Architecture Industry? How do you imagine the future?

For the past few decades, architecture on a global level has been increasingly driven by a globalized neo-liberal market economy. We recently observe an arousing awareness of political and social issues in architecture, that go beyond the mere formal and economical products of late capitalism. In order for architecture to be relevant, we have to address the needs of society in their built environment. But this doesn’t mean that participatory processes are the solution. We believe that an awareness of the rich history of architecture and understanding of form, together with a consideration of socially and politically urgent matters, can form the basis for an enriching evolution of the profession.

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Project 

Guggach III
Zürich
2018

1. Prize
Selective Competition, Zurich, 2018

In collaboration with ARGE Donet Schäfer Architekten + Tanja Reimer and Atelier Loidl Landschaftsarchitekten

Guggach-III_DR_2_Grundriss_Erdgeschoss


Juggeling with opposites
Building in an urban context is more and more characterized by a conflict of goals, in which the range of design for our dwelling and living environment gradually vanishes. Noise protection collides with the demands of densification; innovative energy concepts result in costs, that stand in conflict with politically legitimate requirements of affordable housing. How can one still maneuver through these dilemmas with virtuosity? The creative play with contents that stand in opposite, which are spatially translated and elevated in expression, form the base for an escape forward.

Neighbourhood and privacy
The design follows a consciousness and respect for the need of privacy, but at the same time the strong belief, that in the total retreat into the individual and in the avoidance of conflicts lies also a social risk.

Neighbourhoods have changed. The urban life and media platforms support location-independent social networks; the direct next-door or opposite becomes sooner a mischief than a friend. Simultaneously elderly people often suffer from social isolation. Many singles and students consciously seek for life in a community. The mix of flat types in the project offers the possibility for different living conditions. No matter the size, the flat types reach from the park to the street side, and thus profit in the best possible way from light, outlook and silence. The floating perception of space of the urban ensemble with the precisely placed volumes finds a continuation in the spatial structure of the flats.

The rediscovery of the gallery access is a potential, if it can be achieved to establish itself as an unconstrained meeting place. Using a gallery access does not necessarily mean that you want to share your life with everyone. Sleeping rooms are for this reason all oriented towards the quiet park side. By dissolving the cellular structure of the flats into linear walls, a floating space sequence is achieved, the flat “breathes” naturally. Despite the small flat sizes, this generates a spatial richness. At the same time, the living room can be ventilated through the kitchen to the quiet back side. Over-dimensioned columns form rhythmic niches, keep passerbys at distance, and offer inhabitants a second outdoor space in addition to the balconies towards the park.

Concentration and freedom
The location at the park serves as inspiration for a specific school concept, that offers children comprehensible and robust structures and units as a studying place, as well as undetermined spaces for appropriation.

A school building has to fulfill many things today: Pedagogical concepts develop dynamically away from frontal teaching, towards autonomous studying in groups – but the reality looks often different. The introduction of the whole day school is regarded with equal euphoria and scepticism. New spatial demands have to therefore find equally consideration as a high measure of flexibility. Under economical pressure, concentration should be possible on a minimum amount of space, as well as informal exchange, free play and physical activity.

The outdoor school in the Cliostraat in Amsterdam from Johannes Duiker (1930) serves as inspiration for a school building with a spatial structure, that involves the surrounding and creates places for informal learning and life. During good weather, a teaching unit or work group can be moved outdoors. The school building embraces a court space, in which the circulation of the school is situated completely externally. The building is conceived as a sort of stacked campus, where the clusters of the school are connected through an informal exterior vertical yard. It carries the same spirit as the gallery access of the housing complex, and acts as an urban and social catalyst.

Guggach-III_VIS_1_Quartiersplatz
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Guggach-III_VIS_3_Stadtloggia
Guggach-III_VIS_4_Wohnung
 
Website: http://wz-h.ch
Links: Instagram
Images © Weyell Zipse & Hörner
Interview: kntxtr, 01/2019