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Gus Wüstemann | icon 022 | April 2005

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Photo: Anna Lonnerstam Photo: Anna Lonnerstam Photo: Anna Lonnerstam

words Kieran Long and David Taylor

Gus Wüstemann has made a landscape in an apartment.

In the attic level of a historic building in Lucerne, Switzerland, the Zurich-based architect has built what he describes as a “glacier” – a sculptural staircase that leads up to a rooftop terrace.

The lacquered staircase has been expanded into a broader structure of shelves designed as nooks to sleep on, sit on and generally inhabit as the social hub of the otherwise open-plan apartment.

Wüstemann says: “All things that look like architectural details I want to get rid of. When I look at it I don’t see kitchen or bedroom, I see a landscape.”

The landscape concept was used to connect the main living area with the roof terrace, which overlooks the old town of Lucerne. One of the key functions of the white steps is to funnel daylight down from the rooflight and into the apartment. There are also lights built into the abstract, geometric structure that allow for it to be used as a multi-purpose space.

Wüstemann was influenced by the landscape around Lucerne, which is made up of glacial mountains and valleys. “We imagined the terrace as the summit,” he says, “the place where the sun is shining, and the flat as the sheltered valley.”

The white floor also reflects light into the depth of the plan, and is conceived as the lake at the end of the glacier.

The rest of the living space is equally ambiguous in its use. Enclosures made from chipboard – the kind used on construction site hoardings – can be opened and closed to display and then hide rooms.

“The opening and closing of the bathroom and bedroom changes the intimacy of the whole thing,” explains Wüstemann. The bedroom door has a gap at the bottom, meaning people in the living area can see the feet of people within – like in a swimming pool changing room, or a Japanese bathhouse.

“I always try to free the elements of programmatic occupation. The notation disappears – I want them to be very free in my mind. I want to be able to play football in there; or have an art exhibition.”

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