MVRDV reinvents city living in Switzerland

Dutch architects rip up design brief and come up with something entirely different
Housing, Emmen, Switzerland - MVRDV
Housing, Emmen, Switzerland - MVRDV

With expanding urban populations nearly everywhere, housing is a headache for town planners, and high density is seen as the answer in many places. In the 30,000-strong town of Emmen in Switzerland, a developer followed suit and set up a competition for the design of an apartment block.

However, those innovative architects at MVRDV in Holland dismissed the brief and instead presented a collection of houses and low-rise apartment buildings.

We’re not quite sure how they did it, but they’ve squeezed 95 homes onto the original site. Admittedly, many of them are long and narrow, and some of them are spread over four floors, but still, it’s an impressive feat. And despite the cheek-by-jowl nature of the layout, the landscape architects have managed to nestle a number of shared and private gardens and courtyards in there too.


Housing, Emmen, Switzerland - MVRDV
Housing, Emmen, Switzerland - MVRDV

Altogether there are 16 different types of dwellings, some of them a bijou 30 square metres and others up to 130 square metres. Buyers will get to choose whether they purchase a completed house, or something less finished, says MVRDV, and this will help attract people of different means, with the idea of helping create a good mix. “Home owners with little money can therefore delay investment, or do the work themselves, yet still live in a high quality, new build home.”


Housing, Emmen, Switzerland - MVRDV
Housing, Emmen, Switzerland - MVRDV

The aesthetic draw of the Feldbreite development is the colour palette. The architects have picked out a melange of ice-cream hues, with the intention of singling out each unit in a different colour. “A pastel range of colours was chosen based on those specific colours traditionally found in historic Swiss town centres in the Lucerne area, such as Beromünster,” the architects add. It all seems very appealing, and the biggest benefit we can spot is the lack of cars - that’s because there’s underground parking for everyone. 

This kind of urban planning is something you'll find a lot of in our book 20th Century World Architecture. In fact, there's a great entry on the groundbreaking Weissenhof Settlement designed by an all star cast of architects including Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. You can read about that online here or better still buy the book here

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