A vintage year!

A hammock in place of a sofa: Unconventional solutions are the rule here.

The grape vine as inspiration. In a very small space and with the right care, it will produce good fruit for many years to come: With this image in mind, the Swiss L3P architecture firm located outside Zurich designed and built a fascinating haven on the hill.

We all know the rule of thumb: the more challenging the terrain, the more exquisite the wine. It is a tenet that also applies very well to architecture. Just about any halfway talented designer can come up with a pleasant little villa to be built on a beautiful piece of property in the park. But it takes a real master to erect a spectacular, cosy home that is situated on a site measuring just five metres by nine metres and that has above-ground residential space of only 83 square metres. Such a masterpiece does exist, and it is located in the Canton of Zurich, or more precisely: in the municipality of Regensberg.

It is the result of the boldness and fantastic vision of the L3P architectural firm. Many people thought that nothing could be erected on the site. But not the members of L3P. They bought the land nobody else wanted and then set about the task of creating the model of a structure unlike any other. Still, the doubts remained. Local officials, for instance, refused to issue a building permit to the firm. In response, an expert from the Canton’s Commission for the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage was called in. The findings then cleared the way for the firm’s dream to come true.

Officials can’t be faulted by raising questions about the project. After all, it differs from traditional residential buildings in just about every way possible. First, there is the front door itself. You reach it by going through a carport that has been carved into the hillside. Next is the total number of living and usable areas in the house – no fewer than 22 of them arranged on three floors. And, finally, you have the system that has been used to connect these three floors to one another – a series of steps that wind clockwise from room to room all the way to the top of the house. The result is fascinating perspectives, including views of the house’s setting itself, where mighty cherry trees dot the landscape.

Which brings us back to the grape vine: It provided the inspiration for the architects at L3P. The supporting structure made of dark-coloured exposed concrete, chiselled deep into the hillside, represents the trunk and branches of the plant. The curtain wall windows serve as the grapes themselves. There are many of them, no fewer than 58 to be precise, and they come in all sorts of formats. This is the way Boris Egli, a Partner at L3P, explains it. Viewers will have to use a little imagination to see what he is talking about. But they do not have to imagine nearly as much as the architects who turned this steep hillside into a home once did.

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