Mehr Als Wohnen

by | 21. Nov 2016

Master plan | Mixed use | Project

A mixed community forms the backbone of House E by Müller Sigrist Architekten AG © 2016 Johannes Marburg, Geneva

By Jennifer McMaster

Mehr Als Wohnen is a housing co-operative situated in Hunziker, just north of Zurich. The precinct, which translates to mean ‘More Than Living,’ has emerged as an ambitious new model for co-op housing developments.


The masterplan, won by Futurafrosch and Duplex Architekten, helped create a consistent pattern across the development. Mehr Als Wohnen, Pool Architekten © 2016 Niklaus Spoerri

Mehr Als Wohnen came about in response to Zurich’s inner-city housing crisis. Like many urban centers, the city has been experiencing a sharp rise in its housing costs. In response, the City of Zurich organized an open design competition on a former industrial site.

The winning masterplan was awarded to Futurafrosch and Duplex Architekten, who then teamed up with a series of architects, including Pool Architekten, Müller Sigrist, Miroslav Šik and landscape designers Müller Illien.


This site plan demonstrates the intentionally fragmented built pattern that defines the development. The three buildings shown in blue were designed by Pool Architekten. Mehr Als Wohnen, Pool Architekten © 2016 Pool Architekten

The concept for Mehr Als Wohnen is holistic and democratic- as Duplex Architekten explain, “the vision was to create a part of the city rather than an estate.” Consultation extended into the community, with future residents and a sociologist, Corinna Heye, all contributing to the project’s development.


Community dialogue was integral to the development of Mehr Als Wohnen. Here, future residents and community members gather around a site model, which shows Christian Kerez’ Leutschenbach School in one corner. Mehr Als Wohnen, Mehr Als Wohnen © 2016 Ursula Meisser

The result is a public-oriented diagram that immediately translates to the built pattern. In contrast to a typical landscape of monolithic, repetitive towers and blocks, the masterplan proposes a series of smaller, independent buildings, which are arranged across thirteen lots. These sites are then stitched together with an intricate network of public spaces, pathways and parks. The shared spaces are rimmed by ground-floor tenancies, which contain work-spaces, retail and community rooms. As a consequence, the neighborhood character is mixed, lively and active.


Ground floor tenancies include several small businesses, many of which are owned and operated by local residents who live in the complex. Mehr Als Wohnen, Duplex Architekten © 2016 Johannes Marburg, Geneva


This mixed pattern is mimicked upstairs, where the balconies are animated by different lives. Mehr Als Wohnen, Duplex Architekten © 2016 Johannes Marburg, Geneva

Mehr Als Wohnen is funded by fifty small co-operatives, who banded together to support the project. The final project contains 395 dwellings, 35 retail spaces, and shared care and community facilities. 1200 residents and 150 employees live and work across the precinct.

A series of subsidies are offered to low-income earners, and 10% of the apartments are allocated to charities and not-for-profits, including an orphanage. The result is a development that includes a mixture of people, ranging from recently settled refugees to middle income professionals.


The social mix across Mehr Als Wohnen is immediately evident, and builds a genuine, and diverse, community of residents. Here, residents are shown gathering in the stairwell of Duplex Architekten’s House M. Mehr Als Wohnen, Duplex Architekten © 2016 Johannes Marburg, Geneva

This collaborative model is, in many ways, what makes Mehr Als Wohnen so exciting- it takes a tried-and-tested model of Swiss co-operative housing and expands it to a new, and enlarged, scale. It is the extensive scale, and audience, of the development that makes this project quietly revolutionary.


These two buildings by Pool Architekten- House G and House J – portray a likeness of character without becoming overly repetitive. Mehr Als Wohnen, Pool Architekten © 2016 Niklaus Spoerri

This eclectic pattern is also echoed in the architectural approach. Across the development, the master plan dictates that two ‘brothers’- or paired buildings- are designed in close proximity, while a ‘cousin’- alike in character, but not matching- is placed on the opposite side of the complex. The result is an overall built character that contains likeness and variation, homogeneity and charm.


A quiet architectural approach means that the buildings are enlivened by activity and life. Mehr Als Wohnen, Duplex Architekten © 2016 Johannes Marburg, Geneva

Across the development, the architecture intentionally acts as a quiet backdrop, allowing the stuff of life to act as embellishment. While all of the buildings are prismatic, and often plain, from the outside, they contain distinctive interior experiences. Pool Architekten’s House, G, for example, maintains a massive, blockish exterior that, upon entry, erodes into a spectacular series of interior voids.


The exterior of House G appears as a massive concrete volume. Mehr Als Wohnen, Pool Architekten © 2016 Volker Schoop


The interior of House G opens into a cavernous void. Mehr Als Wohnen, Pool Architekten © 2016 Volker Schoop

At Mehr Als Wohnen, the architects have been encouraged to explore new modes of planning and organization. The development thus proposes a variety of new ways for people to live together co-operatively.

A product of this experimentation is House A, a ‘cluster house’ designed by Duplex Architekten. This contemporary interpretation of a share house allows people to live with varying degrees of privacy and autonomy.


The common room of Duplex Architekten’s House A acts as a share space for a cluster of residents. Mehr Als Wohnen, Duplex Architekten © 2015 Duplex Architekten

Architecturally, this is achieved by arranging a series of small, apartment-like units around a generous common space. These joint living rooms provide a space to come together and socialize, with the option to retreat to a private apartment – equipped with a bed, bathroom and kitchenette.


Duplex Architekten’s House M also provides residents with highly livable spaces. Mehr Als Wohnen, Duplex Architekten © 2015 Johannes Marburg, Geneva

Mehr Als Wohnen is a large-scale, exciting new prototype for multi-residential housing. It transforms a once neglected neighborhood into a welcoming and diverse civic quarter filled with a genuine demographic mix. As a model, Mehr Als Wohnen is experimental and collaborative, encouraging new modes of living and working in close proximity. In such a way it is, as its name suggests, much more than housing.

The trailer to the Mehr Als Wohnen project- the film “With Other Eyes,” produced by Duplex Architekten, can be seen here:



Site Plan. Mehr Als Wohnen, Pool Architekten © 2014 Duplex Architekten


Plan, Cluster Housing at House A. Mehr Als Wohnen, Duplex Architekten © Duplex Architekten


ARCHITECTPool Architekten
Müller Sigrist
Miroslav Šik
Duplex Architekten