Villa on Lake Zug by Graber and Steiger

Architecture has a right to subjective influence

Architects Niklaus Graber (*1968) and Christoph Steiger (*1968) established the company Graber and Steiger in Lucerne in 1995. The company is meanwhile fifteen strong and its catalog of works includes numerous public and private construction assignments for habitation, education, tourism, services and industry. A number of larger projects – such as the new Panorama Gallery on Mount Pilatus – are currently on the go. Graber and Steiger have received numerous awards for their work: these include the "best architects" award, which they have received twice, and the Silver Hare for Architecture (an award presented by Swiss magazine Hochparterre). In 2008/2009, the architects from Lucerne developed a villa on the shore of Lake Zug. An interview with Niklaus Graber (left).

Niklaus Graber, you and your team designed a home on Lake Zug on behalf of a family. What initial situation did you face and to what extent does your architecture bear reference to the unique surroundings?
We were appointed to build a new home for a family of four on a park-like lakeside plot in Zug. The privileged location with breath-taking views of the lake, the mountains and the city of Zug, and the idyllic character of the immediate surroundings had a significant influence on the design. The building is characterized by a multifaceted architectural topography and stands solidly grounded in the surrounding landscape. Various terraces and a carefully arranged opening behavior present the location's qualities in a differentiated manner. The cardinal point is a two-story atrium at the center of the house, around which all utility rooms are arranged in a ring.

You have used sliding solutions in various situations. Why do you prefer them to conventional pivot doors?
We used sliding solutions whenever the objective was to create flexible and divisible room sequences. Not only from a functional viewpoint, but also with regard to the spatial effect. We see the advantages in particular in the dimensioning of room closures. Ceiling height wall elements that exceed the dimensions of a conventional door move easily when designed as sliding doors. When they are open, the rooms appear cohesive, continuous and fluid. When they are closed, they create individual, chamber-like rooms. And then there are all of the intermediate forms. In other words, the degree of separation is subtly and individually controllable, allowing the rooms to adapt ideally to the daily routine.

What materials define the house?
The outside of the building looks earthy and natural thanks to its rough brick facade. On the inside, the walls, ceilings and developed areas are dominated by light, smooth materials that are particularly suitable for achieving the distribution of light intended by the design. The floors, on the other hand, are all made of dark wood.

What considerations led to the use of clinker bricks?
Hard-fired clinker bricks lend the building a very sensuous surface feel and sense of scale. At any time of year, their natural, strikingly changing color tone is the adequate counterpart to the plot's ubiquitous reference to nature. Last but not least, clinker brick is a rugged, maintenance-free facade material that significantly increases the sustainability of the building.

To what extent did sustainability play a role?
Sustainability always plays a role in construction. In this particular case, we focused not only on the sustainability of the alternative energy carrier but also of the materials used for construction. The room concept follows the same line of thought: the floor plan of the house is designed to allow the eastern part of the house to be divided off as a separate, two-story secondary suite with very little effort. The house could therefore serve various generations as a home in the future if the need arises.

What basic principles apply to your work?
We think it is important to develop designs on the basis of the specific circumstances in hand and to find an appropriate solution, which in turn means questioning every single task. We try not to develop an "objective" type of architecture; we lean towards architecture with a more subjective character. That means that our subjective opinions can by all means contribute critical considerations and personal interpretations of the task at hand. In this regard, we see our designs as statements relating to the environment and to the culture in which we practice our profession.

Niklaus Graber, thank you very much for talking with us.

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A sensitive connection to nature

Die idyllische Umgebung prägt die Architektur massgeblich und das flexible Raumprogramm lässt sich unterschiedlichen Bedürfnissen anpassen.

Villa on Lake Zug

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