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A Farmhouse for an Architect

Muttenz, CH

There has always been a great deal of productivity here. The building that now houses the Huesler Architekten office and Oppenheim Architecture have been a workspace since 1743, the year Beat Huesler renovated the farmhouse. It is located in the middle of the historic heart of the village, next to the Fortified Church of St. Arbogast. The architect was awarded the contract after the Basel municipality decided to sell the building rights to the noble estate and organized a competition for the project.

Now, in keeping with centuries of tradition, living and creating are united inside one building complex. It consists of the renovated barn, the residential portion, which was built into two condos after the renovation, and the family home on the site of the dilapidated shed.

The large gate with the round arch and glass door leads from the church square into the former barn, through a conference and meeting room and straight up into the modern, internationally networked working world. Since 2008, a close partnership has connected the Swiss office and their American colleagues of Oppenheim Architecture + Design in Miami, and now their European headquarters can be found at the church square in Muttenz.

Above the entrance floor, the office unfolds as a bright, open space structure on four levels. The skeleton of the old beams, now painted white, harkens back to the original threshing floor. Rustic history meets the future in a purism that seems quite natural. USM Haller sideboards in light gray and purewhite complement the fifteen workstations at long desks and meeting areas. Beat Huesler chose USM furniture because it meets all his requirements for office equipment. “They are flexible, modern, timeless,” he says in praise of the modular furniture from Münsingen. In recent years, he has added more USM multi-purpose cabinets to the original furnishings and has placed them around his workspace.

The focus on the essentials and pragmatics is what unites the historic rural building with the modern working world. Where a ladder had once connected the barn floors, Huesler has installed white stairs that float across the airy space like a sculpture. Because modern creative work demands more light than physical labor did in the past, the renovations to the previously almost windowless farm buildings included cutting new openings into the side gable wall and into the rear section of the barn.

The old, weak threshing flooring was given new life. Beat Huesler built his family home on the site of the old shed behind the barn. The new building, which is the same size as its predecessor, is now clad in the dismantled, cleaned and brushed gray wooden boards of the barn.

The house has over 300 square meters of floor space on three stories. If threshing floor aims to unite the working world of today with that of a by gone era, the home for the family of four combines a contemporary-urban design with the advantages of rural life on relaxed outdoor seating and in the garden.

With its converted basement in which the children’s bedrooms open onto a courtyard, the whole house is oriented toward the countryside. The two-story facade of the high dining area is completely surrounded by windows; the transition from the long interior table with its surface made of reclaimed wood from an Asian ship, the Horgenglarus chairs and the hanging lamp by Flos easily flows into the outside dining area on the terrace.

The interior design is structured by the oiled oak built-in fixtures designed by the architects, which not only serve as furniture, kitchen and bathroom elements but also accommodate the entrances to the rooms.

The large wooden surfaces, the gray natural stone floor laid with Peperino Grigio tiles and the Slovenian tuff living room wall with the fireplace all bring a sense of harmony into this private realm.

“The studio and the house are physically separated,” explains Beat Huesler, “even though they’re only about a meter apart. But this threshold is important for me and lets me feel the difference between my working world and my living world.”

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