Sliding shutters lining the courtyards of the Letzihof residential complex not only protect against the sun and prying eyes when closed, but are also works of architectural art: the shutters are covered in fabric printed with pictures by artist Annelies Štrba.
Industrial, unconventional, contemporary – that was the goal set for the architectural competition leading to construction of the "Letzihof", a new residential development located at the intersection of Zurich’s Letzigraben and Mühlezelgstrasse. The winning submission came from erp-Architekten, a firm of architects in Baden. It meets the brief perfectly: the building’s dimensions are reminiscent of an industrial facility, likewise the strip windows and dark metal paneling on the façades. Only at second glance do the differences grow apparent: some windows have loggias behind them, while the colored, extensible sun-blinds look typical of an apartment building. The 72 rental units have a strong industrial touch, too: large room spaces, high ceilings and cement floors predominate.
To admit adequate daylight, the architects stipulated three inner courtyards of 12 by 12 meters each. Staircases and pergolas on two sides of a courtyard lead to the apartments, while balconies line the other two sides. To shield from the sun as well as prying eyes, every balcony incorporates three sliding shutters with fabric covering. Each shutter panel measures 1.1 by 3.1 meters and moves thanks to a special solution for HAWA Frontslide hardware. Lightweight metal frames tension the fabric, which is printed with pictures by the artist Annelies Štrba. When slid together, the shutters lining the courtyard sides depict either a woman’s face or a meadow in bloom. Drawn apart, each colored sheet of fabric has its own individual artistic appeal. The overall result is a colorful visual composition that constantly shifts depending on the shutter placement, and one rendered particularly effective by the restraint of the courtyard construction materials.