The Pestalozzi school was designed by the cantonal architect Heinrich Reese as a secondary school for boys and built from 1891 to 1893. The main facade of the free-standing school faces the park at St. Johanns-Platz. In 2003 the interiors were renovated by the Basel-based architects Diener & Diener. The work was carried out extremely carefully, precisely and respectfully with regard to the historical substance.
The restrained Neo-Baroque building was still practically in its original condition before the recent renovation. The work was completed in two stages. During the first stage, the spatial requirements were adapted to contemporary school needs according to the recent school reform (HarmoS) and the electronic infrastructure updated to allow the use of new media in teaching (e.g. projectors, visualizers).
In addition, measures were taken to comply with current standards and laws relating to earthquake safety, fire protection, other safety requirements and improved room acoustics. All walls and ceilings were repainted and the oak floors were sanded and oiled. Special emphasis was placed on preserving the pre-existing spatial qualities as well as the surface materials and colours in line with the 2003 renovation concept.
The second stage of the renovation took place in 2018 and comprised the gymnasium and the adjoining room. The focus was on the seamless integration of an acoustic ceiling and new lighting as well as the renewal of the surfaces and sport equipment. New dark red polyurethane flooring complements the ceiling lighting and creates a pleasant, recreational environment. Once more, the renovation strategy was to carefully preserve the quality of the building fabric and the historical atmosphere.
The property is located on the western flank of the Lebanon Mountains. The area extends over 60,000 m² and is densely covered with century-old pine trees. The brief was to build a weekend home for a single individual. The construction site was chosen in the middle of the property in order to maximise the view without having to clear the historic pine trees. The slope of the land, the vegetation and the remains of old retaining walls were decisive in the design of the house.
The weekend home consists of a ground floor and a basement that is half buried in the terrain. The overhanging roof with a surface area of 20×12 m interrupts the natural slope of the topography. The west facade of the house stands on a retaining wall of natural stone, which extends around the house to the east side and encompasses a slightly elevated green area. The pitched concrete roof, covered in tiles, is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional roofs of the region.
Inside the pavilion-like house, the program is kept to a minimum. Two enclosed volumes interrupt the open space: the first contains the kitchen, guest toilet and wardrobe, the second separates the living area from the sleeping area and contains the bathroom and a walk-in wardrobe. The height of the space is determined by the tapered roof, from the high ceilings in the dining area to the intimate and cosy bedroom. Interior doors and cupboards are seamlessly integrated into the vertical oak panels of the interior walls. The custom-made terrazzo floor tiles are of the same earthy colours as the weekend home’s surroundings.
A guest house and a pool are currently under construction. Completion is scheduled for 2018.
House 186 in Riehen, also called “Haus zum Mohr”, is located in the middle of a green area with historic trees. Built in 1912 as a home and studio for the artist Emil Gerster and his family, the building is now part of the adjoining “Gute Herberge” residential school. The house is notable for its original lead glazing with coloured glass and coat of arms motifs, which were produced by the artist and heraldist himself, as well as the eponymous mosaic “Zum Mohr” on the front facade of the building.
The facade renovation included energy-saving measures in the area of windows and external doors to improve comfort and reduce power consumption. To preserve the historically valuable lead glazing and impair its appearance as little as possible, the renovation was carried out in strict compliance with the highest standards of historic conservation. New composite sashes with double glazing were inserted between the picture windows and the storm windows. The storm windows were repaired and repainted. The requirements for a comfortable indoor climate could thus be met without impairing the internal and external appearance of the windows.
The facades were severely damaged. The mineral plaster had been coated with a layer of synthetic resin, which interrupted natural diffusion and created a large quantity of cavities. The irrevocably destroyed plaster was removed and replaced. A new colour scheme was chosen, making the studio house stand out against the main building of the residential school and doing justice to its location in the middle of the park.
St. Johann school was planned by cantonal architect Heinrich Reese and built from 1886 to 1888 in the characteristic symmetrical style of the Neo-Renaissance. Despite several renovations in the past, the interior features were in good condition. The restoration concept therefore aimed to maintain the spatial qualities of the building and to preserve the nature of the existing surfaces, thus writing a new chapter in the building’s history instead making a hard break. For the attic conversion, however, it was necessary to define a new character.
The surface treatment was based on material and colour analyses that revealed four different periods: the original ochre-beige tones, a green, blue and red phase, a grey period and finally a return to the original colours. Starting from one of the brownish oxide-red tones of 1932, we developed various shades of red for the wooden elements. To achieve a better light reflection, the ceilings were painted white, while the corridor walls were kept in a delicate pink shade and those of the classrooms were painted in a complementary light green.
The attic is accessed via a new central staircase. The reduced room height under the roof is compensated with carefully selected surface colours and materials. The new drawing and textile rooms are naturally lit by timber-aluminium skylights. All along the knee wall, a built-in cabinet with white linoleum inlays provides storage space and individual workstations.
New building components (earthquake reinforcement, fire protection, safety measures, building services, media and electrical systems, barrier-free access) were integrated in such a way that they fulfil today’s requirements without impairing the spatial qualities of the historic building.
The Vogesen school was built between 1993 and 1996 by Basel architects Diener & Diener. It consists of four above-ground floors and three underground floors with a gymnasium. In 1997 it was awarded the “Auszeichnung guter Bauten” (Good Buildings Award) for its urban and interior qualities. Most of the building was still in its original condition at the beginning of the construction.
In accordance with school harmonisation, the spatial requirements for a modern secondary school were to be implemented and the building energetically and technically renovated to meet current standards and laws. Two learning landscapes, consisting of learning studios, input and group rooms, as well as workstations in the corridors, were installed on all the standard floors. The main challenge here was how to deal with the rooms designed by the artist Peter Suter in different colours. The aim was to find a creative response to the new spatial and pedagogical requirements through minimal structural alterations.
The slender partition walls were carefully removed so that the original room configuration remained visible and the colour concept with its different colours for each room became even more legible. The traces on the ceilings and walls from the removal of the partitions were preserved, cleaned and painted black. The floor indentation was filled and covered with black linoleum. The space now met the new requirements without concealing its historical design.
New features include a regeneration kitchen with a dining room, a school kitchen with a theory room and several preparation and classrooms with laboratories for science lessons. Additionally, all wall surfaces were renewed, the ceilings acoustically upgraded and the media technology adapted to contemporary requirements. Throughout the building the fire protection standards were fulfilled and guardrails according to the current norms installed for all windows and roofs.
The 350 m² apartment with a conventional floor plan is located on the fourth floor of a residential building in Beirut's Ashrafieh neighbourhood. The owners, a married couple living in Monaco and their adult children currently living in Paris and London, use the apartment as a secondary residence where they spend time together. For this purpose, they wanted the apartment to be better suited to their cosmopolitan lifestyle.
The rooms were rearranged in such a way that the representative and private parts of the apartment are clearly separated. The special focus of the commission was on the design of the reception area for social gatherings. The entrance hall with its raised ceiling and high-quality materials sets a generous and luxurious tone. The pattern of the marble floor and the diamond-shaped light bands embedded in the ceiling appear almost three-dimensional. Slits in the plastered walls provide glimpses of the living room. The accordion folding of the oak panelling conceals a wardrobe and a door leading into the private section of the apartment.
The large living room faces a backlit fireplace which extends along the entire width of the room. The brass and marble bar, the long sideboard and walls coated with shiny textured paint set additional spatial accents. Suspended ceilings, subtle material changes and the careful furnishing create a zoning of the space without obstructing it.
The bedrooms form a contrast to the open space in the representative part of the apartment. In the narrow rooms, the furnishing is reduced to the essentials. Simple, custom-made furniture offers plenty of storage space. Fitted carpets and floor-to-ceiling flowing curtains enhance the intimacy of these rooms.
The Maronite cemetery in Beirut is one of the few remaining green spaces in the increasingly dense city. Having a family vault here is a symbol of wealth, and a waiting list is maintained for available cemetery plots. The mausoleums and tombs are decorated in various ways with religious symbols and ornaments.
The client, the wife of a Lebanese businessman, bought a 3×3.6 m plot a few years ago. She asked us to build a new family vault for herself, her husband and her descendants, all of whom were in excellent health. We were impressed by their pragmatism towards this unusual commission. The planning process was at the same time intimate and abstract. The challenge was to plan a resting place in the sense of a “final home”.
We designed the vault as a space for meditation. A frame with two closed, as well as two open sides occupies the entire plot. The concrete structure is covered with cast stone. A recurring cross motif was implemented as an expression of the client’s deep faith. A large Latin cross made of brass is embedded in the back wall of the vault. The main supports in the roof of the pergola create a cross, whose spaces are filled with a finely lasered cast stone lattice of crosses. This creates an intricate play of light and shadow on the simple tombstone, which conceals the entrance to the underground vault.
Built in 1912 by the Basel architect Rudolf Sandgruber for the storage of cocoa, the bulk goods silo is located on the site of the former Deutsche Bahn freight terminal in the north of the Kleinbasel district. Early on in the development of the Erlenmatt Ost neighbourhood, the Habitat Foundation decided to preserve the building as a historical testimony to the former use of the site, thus giving it an identity. The aim was to create a socio-cultural setting with a variety of uses that could be accessed and experienced by everyone.
Due to its past use as a silo, the building had to be extensively renovated, upgraded in terms of earthquake safety and equipped with technical installations. The building access, the vertical and horizontal circulation and the layout must be adapted to future space and usage requirements that remain to be defined. In addition, the building envelope must be completely redesigned to provide natural daylight to the interior spaces and comply with contemporary energy efficiency standards.
Each floor of the building has specific qualities: the large column hall with silo funnels hanging from the ceiling on the ground floor, the previously inaccessible silo chambers made of concrete columns and partition walls on the first floor and the nave-like roof truss constructed of inclined concrete girders on the second floor.
The conversion concept is based on this horizontal layering. The ground floor is occupied by a multifunctional hall and a restaurant. The facade areas along the terrace to the west will be fully glazed. The stair cases and ancillary rooms will be located along the east facade. Three scenarios are planned for the upper floors: “Studios”, “Event” and “Hostel”. The robust framework allows for a flexible adaptation to the respective spatial needs. The openings in the facade are designed according to the daylight requirements of the various programmes.
Hebel school was built from 1952 to 1953 by the Basel architects Rasser & Vadi. Two parallel classroom wings, diagonal to the street and facing south, are connected by a long, narrow wing that ends in the former gymnasium. With its clear overall organisation, direct connection to the outside spaces, generous windows, protected recess and recreation areas, cross-ventilation and attractive details, the pavilion school complied with the guidelines for child-friendly school architecture of the time. The school, which is listed in the inventory of protected buildings, had been preserved in its original form. A wooden building, erected in 1994 parallel to Langelängeweg, is also part of the school complex.
The school is characterised in particular by the contrast between its simple exterior and the intense colours of the interior. Research was undertaken in a colour study to determine the original hues, and the colour scheme for the renovation was derived from the results. The carefully executed interventions preserve the character and historical qualities of the school building.
The conversion of the former gymnasium into an auditorium required the integration of new elements into the existing building. The changing rooms were converted into a spacious foyer with sliding windows that open onto an outdoor terrace. In the art room above the home economics facilities, interior walls were removed to create an open space for a municipal library. Wheelchair access is ensured even after school hours by a new lift tower outside the building.
In addition to the energy-related retrofitting of the building shell, the insertion of new earthquake walls, various fire protection measures and technical upgrades, the brief also included adaptations to accommodate new educational formats: installations for multimedia projectors and computers with network connections; group rooms for project work with connecting doors to the classrooms; acoustic measures; teacher workstations; flexible rooms for school administration, social work, remedial teaching, etc. The requirements of the current school reform (HarmoS) could thus be met while ensuring that the best possible use will be made of this architecturally valuable school complex in the coming decades.
The cantonal high school “Im Lee” in Winterthur consists of three buildings: in addition to the main building, designed by the Pfister brothers and built from 1926 to 1928, the school complex includes the “Villa Bühlhalde” and the “Varielbau” from the 1970s, which was originally intended to be only temporary. The school activities currently taking place in the “Villa Bühlhalde” and the “Varielbau” are to be relocated to the main building. For this purpose, the attic is to be converted and the common halls adapted to be spaces for individual and group work.
The converted attic is accessed via the extension of the existing staircase. A naturally-lit corridor set off from the building’s central axis leads to the new rooms for music lessons. Due to concerns about maintaining the existing roof structure, the rooms are laid out in such a way as to ensure that the roof truss only needs to be modified near the staircases and the large music halls. The new skylights are positioned on the north side. Additional windows in the jamb walls also offer a direct view of the surroundings. The acoustic systems are tailored to their use in the respective rooms.
The spatial qualities of the large recreation halls are to be preserved in the course of the conversion. Besides the teaching-related activities, the halls offer a space for exchanges between pupils. To meet the fire safety requirements, the stairwells are separated from the halls by fire-resistant glazing. Furthermore, a new acoustic ceiling system and brighter lighting will be installed.
The existing plaster will be removed from all facades of the listed building and replaced by a mineral-based insulating plaster system. The windows from the 1980s will be replaced with new oil-painted wooden windows with triple glazing and traditional grilles. A new wood chip heating system replaces the existing oil heating, and the plumbing and electrical installations are modernised and adapted to meet the current legal stipulations. As a result, the overall energy consumption is reduced without impairing the historical appearance of the building.
The Ain Mereisseh neighbourhood, located in the western part of Beirut, was originally inhabited by fishermen and their families and is now an extremely popular residential area. During the reconstruction necessary after damage caused by past wars, the basic structures of buildings dating back to the 19th century have been overlaid by new buildings and other types of real estate.
The four-storey residential building in Rue Van Dick was built in the 1930s and expanded to include a two-storey apartment in the early 1960s. Despite the extensive damage from the last civil war, its basic substance was still in good shape. The commission comprised completely renovating and slightly enlarging the apartment for prospective tenants.
The special features of the apartment, which is oriented to three sides, are the large reception area and the numerous terraces and balconies with their brise soleils made of concrete. The floor plan of the entrance and hallways was slightly changed during renovation, and the new, floor-to-ceiling openings in the facade provide views of the sea and the city centre. Most of the power required for air conditioning, heating, hot water, and electricity is now being generated by a separate solar energy plant. The building services and the building envelope have also been modernised.
A terrazzo floor for both the interior of the apartment and the terraces was produced locally. The material and colour of the facade were chosen so that over time they would blend in with the colour and surfaces of the buildings in the neighbourhood and thus become a natural part of it.
The large special wing of the “Zürcher Oberland” cantonal high school was built in 1964 by the architect Max Ziegler as an extension of the original school dating from 1956. The listed school complex has already been renovated and extended several times. The impression of space inside the buildings is decisively influenced by the wide corridors, the well-lit, spacious classrooms and the two broad staircases. The rich contrast between the warm comfort of the colours and materials from the 1950s and the sober expression of those from the 1960s is striking. In the 3rd construction phase from 1985 to 1987, the surfaces were sometimes considerably changed, so that contrary to the original concept uniformity and monochromaticity now dominate.
According to the plan, the technical requirements, official stipulations and energy-saving measures are carefully integrated into the historical building. The existing architectural vocabulary is reused, recombined and supplemented with new elements. The aim is to reactivate the original quality and energy intrinsic to the house and thus to create a harmonious overall feeling that cannot be traced back to the time of its origin.
The glass wall between the auditorium and the large special wing is replaced, pushed back to align with the auditorium and the colour matched to the anthracite of the facade. A new service elevator makes all the floors wheelchair-accessible. The design of the surfaces is based on the original concept for colours and materials from the 1960s. A uniform plaster surface with flush-mounted round ceiling lights is installed on the ceilings as the new acoustic system. New aluminium skylights bring additional light into the corridors.
The west staircase is separated from the two-storey hall by fire-resistant glazing to create an escape route. For the school, this results in a new, versatile space for meetings, breaks, homework or as an alternative area for regular teaching. In the large display cabinets, illustrative material from physics, chemistry and biology can be exhibited or works of art that pupils produce in their drawing or crafts lessons. The comfortable seating areas, central lighting and improved acoustics combine to create a pleasant atmosphere detached from that of regular classrooms.
The 480m² apartment is located on the tenth floor of a new residential building in the western part of Beirut. The client, a diamond trader of Lebanese descent who lives in Antwerp, commissioned us with converting the unfinished apartment into his secondary residence. The central location as well as the exceptional view of the sea and the last remaining sandy beach in the heart of the city were decisive factors for the purchase.
The apartment was transformed into a unique and personal living space while retaining the load bearing structure and existing building services. In order to fulfil the client's request for a spacious reception area and exhibition space for his art collection on the one hand and private family quarters on the other, the floor plan of the apartment had to be significantly altered.
The small anteroom with access to the elevators was fitted with grey Italian travertine and a generous chandelier. The main entrance leads into the representative part of the apartment, which extends over its entire depth. The large loggia, which offers a view of the beach, was enclosed with glass. Bright monochrome surfaces provide an ideal backdrop for exhibiting the client’s art collection and vintage furniture.
An ebony-clad niche with sliding doors connects to the family room and a long hallway with a luminous ceiling that leads to the bedrooms. The en-suite bathrooms are finished with different materials: Statuario marble for the parents’ bathroom, Bisazza tiles in the children's bathrooms and backlit onyx in the guest bathroom.
MET Architects was founded in 2009 by Roula Moharram and Thomas Thalhofer. With our team of highly qualified employees, we develop independent solutions specifically adapted to each building project.
Our experience spans a wide range of projects, from private homes to school complexes and from renovations of listed buildings to new developments. Our goal is to create comprehensible, durable and identity-endowing architecture at every scale by approaching the various aspects of a project impartially.
The fundamental basis for this is intensive and open dialogue with our clients. Our work is characterised by high construction quality, intelligent solutions and refined design. With the conscious utilisation of materials and craftsmanship we create timeless, sustainable buildings.
Since 2018, we have collaborated with Morger Partner Architekten on various competitions.
Our work has been distinguished with various publications and awards, including the “best architects” 2017 for Van Dick Apartment, “best architects” 2019 for St. Johann school as well as the “db deutsche bauzeitung” distinction for Hebel school in 2014.
Roula Moharram was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1968. She graduated from the UP9 Paris la Seine as Architecte DPLG in 1994. After working as an architect for Pierre El Khoury & Partners in Beirut from 1994 to 1999, she set up Roula Moharram Architects in Beirut in 2000 and managed the firm until 2009. In the same year, she founded MET Architects with Thomas Thalhofer in Basel. She was the guest critic at the ETH Studio Basel for a research project in Beirut in 2009. She has remained strongly involved in the architecture scene of Beirut and is regularly invited to take part in juries and give lectures and workshops. In 2018, she became a member of the Arab Center for Architecture ACA.
Thomas Thalhofer was born in Augsburg, Germany, in 1969. He graduated from the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences in 1998 with a degree in architecture. From 1998 to 2002, he worked as an architect for HildundK Architekten in Munich. He was a project manager and associate at Christ & Gantenbein Architekten in Basel from 2003 to 2007 and a project manager at Christian Kerez Architekt in Zurich from 2007 to 2009. He founded MET Architects GmbH SIA with Roula Moharram in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, he was a lecturer at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in the Master’s programme in architecture and a guest critic in the Bachelor’s programme in 2013. In 2018, he became a member of the Arab Center for Architecture ACA.
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