location: Montreux, Switzerland | architecture, interior & furniture design: Ralph Germann architects – www.ralphgermann.ch | photography: Lionel Henriod

Designed for construction workers of the railroad connecting Montreux to the Rochers-de-Naye, this modest house was built in 1911 with large stone blocks found in the ground dug for the rail line. Constructed on a sloping hillside, lined with a terraced garden, it offers breathtaking views of the Alps, Lake Geneva and the Riviera.

First tenant and later owner, architect Ralph Germann’s renovation of the building shows visible signs of the transformation on the external façades. Completely emptied, only the central staircase with its walnut and wrought iron balustrade has been retained from the building’s original design. This cage that originally served three apartments was opened to link together all the floors of the house, now concentrated in a single entity. It was reconstructed in 2014 with materials that included larch wood, lime plaster and concrete; it remains a compact build, but succeeds admirably through the imaginative use of space and volume.

To strengthen the link between the levels, the architect imagined an original solution. The load-bearing walls in the staircase were opened to insert concrete open elements, built on site from moulds. Responding to the demands of heat and sound insulation, the creation of these apertures proved to be a very effective solution. Heat, light and sound passes easily, allowing the family members to communicate from one floor to another. In addition, these cavities also serve as storage spaces.

The ground floor contains the living room and the kitchen, connected to the garden. The master bedroom is strategically located in the centre of the house and the children occupy the top floor.

For the full article see Habitat #259 May / June 2017 | Subscribe now