Apartments for Senior Citizens – Peter Zumthor

architect_ Peter Zumthor
location_ Masans, Chur, Switzerland
project year_1989-1993
photography_ Marta Cassany and Jörn Schiemann

from the architect_The building is designed for residents who can still live on their own and look after themselves. It faces the Kronengasse and the old center of Masans. At the rear is the existing old people’s home, whose nursing facilities can be used as required.

The new building and the existing complex form a loose configuration, a kind of suburban ‘farmstead’ arranged around a spacious courtyard. Existing features, such as the low wall alongside the Kronengasse, a shed and a mighty lime tree, were incorporated into a new entrance situation, which now looks as if it had always been like that. The mood is informal and rural.

Throughout the complex, consisting of 21 apartments, a guest room and a staff room, all connected by external corridors, one can see evidence of the declared design objectives, i.e. the creation of a rural atmosphere in a suburban setting, the sensuous presence of the materials (a basic triad of exposed concrete, tufa and larchwood), and clarity and legibility of construction detail. We want the building to seem relaxed and informal, like a big ‘rock’ in the open expanses of a mountain landscape, expertly worked with precise, careful, perhaps even old-fashioned craftsmanship.

The apartments, although small, appear large, with bedroom doors which, when closed, seem to disappear into the built-in cupboards on either side. We want the inhabitants to feel at home, an impression enhanced by the use of elements which they recognize from their own lives in the surrounding villages: timber flooring that sounds hollow when you walk on it; wooden paneling on tufa walls; an integrated veranda protected from the wind; in a front corner of the wall, an oriel window with a view up the valley towards the evening sun; and the birchwood-clad kitchenette, a window through which one can see an inquisitive glance onto a private patio in the outdoor corridor or watch the comings and goings on the east side of the courtyard.

The plan of the building is based on the idea of solid elements (supporting masonry piers, solid sanitary blocks, nonsupporting wooden boxes) placed at regular intervals in the overall ground plan within a large, flowing continuum of space.