in a residential part of central zurich, architect manuel herz has designed a house with a striking façade comprising operable horizontal and vertical louvers. the building, which contains five residences, is located in close proximity to le corbusier’s ‘heidi weber museum’ and references the institution’s colorful metal panels and striking geometry. the design also takes cues from its bucolic setting, which is filled with a surprising array of plants, installations, and objects.

manuel herz ballet mecanique
all images © yuri palmin



although the scale and organization of manuel herz’s design is comparable to the neighborhood’s other residential structures, the building’s appearance takes on a very different character. the structure’s geometrically simple form is contrasted by its dynamic façade, which lends the project its name: ‘ballet mécanique’, or ‘mechanical ballet’.

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the design comprises operable horizontal and vertical louvers



the scheme comprises horizontal and vertical louvers with a rounded triangular shape, which unfold to become accessible balconies with corresponding roofs. the vertical louvers darken the rooms when closed, or provide privacy and intimacy when open. the adaptable nature of the design means that a series of temporary spaces can be created and used depending on the time of day or season.

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the louvers can be closed to ensure privacy and darkness



using a hydraulic mechanism, four different types of façade elements have been installed: a moveable element with a railing that can unfold to become an accessible balcony; a moveable component without a railing that acts as a shading device; a static element that provides permanently accessible balconies; and static closed wall sections that have the same shape as the other elements.

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the building contains five residences



when closed, the building presents a uniform champagne-colored, slightly metallic tone. however, the interior sides of the louvers feature a color spectrum that ranges between red and blue. this means that when the façade is opened up, a rainbow of red and blue animates the building’s otherwise monochrome façades. watch the house in action in the video at the top of this page, and see more work by manuel herz on designboom here.

manuel herz ballet mecanique
when the façade opens up, a rainbow of red and blue animates the structure

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the interior of the top floor apartment

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the scheme’s centrally positioned main staircase

manuel herz ballet mecanique
concrete has been used within the core of the building

manuel herz ballet mecanique
interior view of the closed louvers and internal stairs

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the brightly colored louvers are visible internally

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the louvers open out to embrace the surrounding nature

manuel herz ballet mecanique
the site is filled with a surprising array of plants, installations, and objects



project info:


name: ballet mécanique
location: zurich – seefeld
use: housing (five apartments)
client: private
completion: july 2017
area: approx. 800 m2 (incl. basement)
volume: approx. 2,650 m3 (incl. basement)
architect: manuel herz architects, basel
team: stefan schöch (project lead), penny alevizou
client representative: odinga picenoni hagen AG, zürich
construction management: bühler & oettli AG, zürich
structural engineers, façade: dr. lüchinger + meyer bauingenieure AG, zürich
HVAC and sanitation planning: MAS engineering gmbh, glattbrugg
building physics, acoustics: gartenmann engineering AG, zürich
raw construction: jenny & co AG, ennenda, glarus
balcony façade: SFL technologies, stallhofen, austria
carpenter: johann rasshofer schreinerei, gmund, deutschland
metal construction: schneebeli metallbau, zürich
flooring: a1 industrieböden, zürich