Transforming a Vintage Space: Arsenal B47 by Ralph Germann Architects

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At first glance, this rustic building in the mountains looks like just another leftover structure from WWII — but it’s actually a Swiss arsenal that the owner wanted to convert into habitable space. That’s where architect Ralph Germann stepped in. The transformation began when Germann inserted a glass cube inside the shell of the older building; this meant he could leave the patina of the walls as it was, as well as preserve the roof and some intriguing historic details — such as the “charge maximum 1500 kg au m2” [maximum load 1500 kg/m2] sign on the wall! Then, a second cube was fitted within the first, this one of wood, to house such utilitarian necessities as the bath and even a fold-up bed, a handy detail in a limited space.

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This wood is more than a container, however; it provides a unifying factor all the way through the dwelling, as do neutral tones — gray, white, apple green, and pale blue. In deliberate counterpoint, the biggest surprise is the splash of fuchsia on bathroom walls and bedding. The other fabulous decorating element here is the setting itself: the owner can relax over a cup of tea and enjoy a breathtaking view — or close off a large picture window via double wooden doors by night. Note the long, narrow horizontal window as well, a perfect balance of light and privacy. This arsenal dwelling has it all: natural materials — larch, slate, glass, and metal — plus careful attention to historic detail, for a sum total that’s a combination of modern style and timeless “feel.”

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