Double Family Home by Chris Lim


Zurich architect Chris Lim has completed two adjoined family homes in Zurich, centred around concrete stairwells.

Called Double Family Home, the building consists of two homes for rental, joined at an angle.

The design focuses on vertical movement between the spaces and features wooden stairs with raw concrete bannisters.

The information below is from Lim:


INTENTION- Although I had a private client for the commission, there was never the intention that he would occupy the house as his private home. Instead, he wanted two private homes for rent.

I was asked to design a double house, each unit big enough for a small family with two-three kids and with as much space as possible.

The challenge I faced was to carry out the client’s vision on a site that previously had been deemed just big enough for one small family home.

APPROACH- My approach was first to develop a grid-pattern for one single-family home that would make it possible to organise and divide the space into single and smallest units of the project.

SIZE AND MATTER- A house is defined by the flow of movement through its space and the connection between its different levels.

I wasn’t happy with the concept of a conventional floor plan, which would have left no room to create a shifting experience when moving through the house.

But space was restricted and to compromise on the height of the rooms would have meant sacrificing other parts of the overall project.

I was looking for a way to insert an element that would be capable of turning an ordinary space into a unique experience. Thus I came up with the idea to focus on the vertical movement to improve space.

The central staircase became the core of the house, its most interesting void separating the public and private levels through the difference in daylight and brightness.

DIVIDING AND PUTTING TOGETHER A set of double-flight stairs serves a similar function by connecting the garden to the two main floors, reserved for living and sleeping.

Daylight pours into the upper levels, bringing more daylight-brightness to emphasize the rooms’ social function, while the lower areas are slightly darker.

The aim was to create a sense of upward flow – we float upwards with the light as we move through the different levels.

INDIVIDUALITY - Within this common framework of the grid, I wanted to give each home its individual feel, while at the same time keeping the project’s overall goals in sight.

I decided to try out a slight angle in the main street façade. This finally led to splitting the façade into two separate units, making 1+1 equals 2, instead of dividing one façade into two halves.

LIGHT AND SPACE This simple act made it possible to bring in more daylight while at the same time upgrading the slightly darker west partition by setting the windows over the corner.

SENSE OF PLACE Designing living spaces meant to me creating spaces of quietness and harmony. As all rooms are strictly functional and not just for show, I wanted to keep things simple without going down the purely minimalist path. Instead, I opted for the reverse trend of chic, with more than a hint of pleasure and luxury.

I started to fill the empty spaces in the plan with daylight and shadows, pieces of furniture, images of life, to form patterns for living based on different visions, adjusting and varying dimensions and openings to make the rooms feel as large as possible for various functions.

At the same time I introduced subtle changes to create inner spaces with a discreet touch of elegance. The overarching goal was to maintain the balance between simplicity and magnificence.

Using natural brightness of daylight, different surfaces and materials, I aimed to create a sensitive space that marries minimalism with warmth to provide a relaxed and welcoming ambiance.

Posted on Wednesday January 20th 2010 at 10:40 am by Chris Barnes. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Jo

    very strange concept, not even sharing the elevator was possible?
    why would people live together?

  • ste

    everything is based on the idea of vertical movement according to this text… but in the end it is nothing more then some simple stairs with a small angle. they have no connection to the floorplans neither do they enrich the spatial experince of the appartements. the views one may have using this stairs are not worked out precisely and many senseless parts of glass makes it an undefined space imho. the material choice it quite nice but also lacks the precision in detailing… some good intentions for living space but a pretty common result. (btw i dont want to comment the outside/facade here)

  • Daniel

    i’m tired of seeing projects that develops ONE interesting/flashy concept and forgets about the rest of the space. just the fact that there’s so many pictures about the stairs almost makes us forget about the rest of the project.

  • Mrs Doubtfire

    Totally agree! The first 2 photos are great and have lots of potential about the spatial quality…then… its just a run of the mill typical house..the facade is appalling…maybe should just have featured the stairs as a design element rather than talk about the other spaces as it does not look like an architect was involved..

  • Minimalist

    Apparently the staircase is the whole magic in this place ? The staircase looks real nice – sadly it doesn’t match the rest at all. The house itself is very middle of the road = plain shoebox.

  • cacas

    This kind of angle should not be “created”… I realy dont see a real reason for that angles in this houses..

  • katie

    like it!! that looks really good from the outside especially. i like hand drawing.

  • 0hzone

    there is a philosophy that says life is about the journey and not the destination.

    in certain architectural priojects this can also be true.

    however given that this report ONLY photgraphs the staircase and does not showcase the spaces the staircase takes to you makes us feel that this was ither the only place the architect show case thir talent; or this was the best they were able to do.

    maybe next time the energy will be better spent on the destination and we can enjoy that too!!

  • I see a stairs and then I see no coherence but I see a lot of nice pictures.

  • Martin Eide

    Agree with many above, this is more about making a nice stair than a house.

  • majchers

    Truly interesting interiors. But exterior way below expectations. Just does not match what's inside. Pitty.