The Ballet Mécanique, a three-story apartment block in central Zurich, automatically catches the eye due to its striking and dynamic exterior. Designed by Manuel Herz Architects, the housing block features walls with retractable and fully-operable louvers, that use hydraulics to open and form multi-coloured balconies and sunshades.“Ballet Mécanique” translates to “mechanical ballet,” a reference to the exterior’s unfolding and moveable elements. The largest of these louvers are the building’s balconies, which are framed by fold-out railings. They fold out to form the front of each home’s living rooms, with smaller panels forming static balconies for the bedrooms and providing shade.
“This type of space is also in-between an exterior and interior space, somehow creating a good transition,” stated Manuel Herz.These building’s multi-purpose louvers can darken a room, open up a space or provide intimacy for its residents. With such an adaptable and ever-shifting design, a series of temporary spaces are created, able to suit the time of day or season.
“The overall idea references the kinetic art that the client collects,” said Herz. “It is also an homage to the Corbusier building Heidi Weber Museum which is very close by, just 100 metres away.Besides altering the spaces of individual homes, the moveable shutters also transform the overall appearance of the building. When closed, the building is champagne-coloured and metallic, a sleek puzzle-box of a building. But when the shutters open, exposing their colourful undersides, the monochromatic cuboid form flourishes into something zanier and more whimsical.
Each moving shutter is coloured one of 20 shades of red and blue, in harmony with the interior design.
“The inner surface of each louvre is coloured reflecting a shade of colour into the interior of the apartments,” a Herz. “The interior surfaces have a very pale colouring and the reds and blues of the louvers smudges onto these surfaces when the light reflects upon them.”