New vision for urban living

    A curved street with steep topography and 300-year-old trees influenced the initial shape of the building. The main volume is split into six smaller, vertically shifted blocks. Photo: Steve Troes Fotodesign

    When it comes to housing, one of the main problems people face in most urban areas today — often places of constant growth and increasing housing demands — is a need to choose an apartment typology over single-family houses, not because of their desire, but out of necessity. Their main concerns can be summed up as the following:

    • typically, in people’s minds, apartment buildings often imply “a life in a box,” without living quality, feeling of belonging, and identity;
    • a lack of natural light and a view;
    • proximity to the neighbors, resulting in the lack of privacy, both visual and acoustic; and
    • insufficient physical space in various forms for a life of comfort.
    The building site has more than 30 feet of elevation change. Photo: Steve Troes Fotodesign

    Metaform architects, based in Luxembourg, carefully analyzed these issues and responded by using them as a base point of transformation, developing a new vision of a collective housing typology. The surrounding context, specific terrain conditions, and form of the plot to be developed offered a possibility for a different experiment, while at the same time reflecting and responding to residents’ concerns.

    The plot is situated along a curved street with steep topography (more than 30 feet of elevation change) and 300-year-old trees classified as national monuments that must be preserved. All of these conditioned the initial shape of the building. Furthermore, the building responds to the specific urban context — small-scaled housing units on one side and a large-scale apartment block on the other. It creates a subtle transition by splitting the main volume into six smaller, vertically shifted blocks. In this way, the building is adjusting to its surroundings; it preserves the required density while nurturing the feeling of belonging, identity, and human scale.

    Volume splitting and shifting enhance natural light and panoramic views while allowing for residents’ privacy. Photo: Steve Troes Fotodesign

    Volume splitting and shifting have been carefully studied to respond to a need for natural light, opening the panoramic views toward the landscape and the city and creating visual contact with the sky, while at the same time allowing for residents’ privacy.

    Another response to the privacy issues consists of enhancing the vertical communication, while eliminating long horizontal, often dark and acoustically unfavorable corridors. Three vertical cores connect underground parking directly to the apartments. This solution allowed for transversal apartment configurations with three-side orientation.

    On the other side, the architects had an idea to give residents a possibility to meet and get to know each other in a common shared indoor space. Facilities such as a common kitchen, leisure room, and games are all designed and intended to bring value by improving social interaction and a sense of community living, on individual voluntary bases, while preserving the privacy and peace of others.

    Apart from creating the meeting common space that can accommodate common as well as private gatherings, the underground floors offer spacious storage for every apartment.

    The overall aspiration was to “marry” current housing needs and issues with specific conditions of the site; to design a collective housing building that offers people a sense of belonging, identity, and community.

    Construction, materials, and structure

    The building is made of a massive structure of reinforced concrete, faced with a ventilated façade made of triangular aluminum panels. Façade materials were selected to allow for minimal maintenance. Thermal wall insulation consists of mineral fiber. Openings are filled with three-layered glass in an aluminum frame. The large glass elements are specially coated with anti-UV film to prevent the building from overheating.

    An important aspect of the energy concept of the building is the orientation; the large openings appear mainly on the south and eastern façades, whereas the north façade is mostly closed. According to Luxembourgish laws, the building is classified as a low-energy building (Class B-B). A centralized ventilation system as well as solar panels for hot water production are also included to optimize the energy efficiency of the project.

    Information provided by v2com (, an international newswire specializing in design, architecture, and lifestyle.