The intertwining trajectory of the loop relates to the 24-hour living and working cycle of the family, where individual working spaces and bedrooms are aligned but collective areas are situated at the crossing points of the paths. In a similar manner, these unfolding lines are materialized with glass and concrete, swapping the conventional use of these materials.
In 1993, a young couple commissioned the Dutch architect Ben van Berkel to design “a house that would be acknowledged as a reference for the renovation of the architectural language”. It took the architect six years to fulfill his clients’ wishes, creating a house based on the studies of a 19th-century German mathematician.
Curiously, the spatial concept of the new Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart – a radiant work by Ben van Berkel – demonstrates how the architect has drawn on and experimented with his memory of the Möbius House.
A new architectonic language
In addition to their wish for a new architectural language, the clients looked for an intense relationship with the landscape, as their two distinctive professions allowed them to work from home and therefore to spend more time with their children. The chosen site was amongst meadows and tall beech trees in Het Gooi, a residential area near Amsterdam.
Ben van Berkel understood that the new architectural language he was asked for should be a direct consequence of their new way of life. The idea of two people moving along their own routes, but sharing certain moments – possibly also reversing roles at certain points – was elaborated into the built object. The house had to knit together the different activities which each member of the family was involved in at different times into one structure: work, sleep, socialise and family life, as well as the need to be alone. Thus the notions of time and duration were important concepts right from the beginning, and ones which would later influence how the house and its objects would be perceived from different viewpoints.
Diagram for the Mobius House. This transformation of the Mobius strip into a set of volumes was the result of the initial transformation of the Mobius strip and prefigured the later, completed house of 1993. This cross section divides the house into four loosely defined quadrants. — UNStudio
Diagram of 24 hours of living
By giving the Möbius band a spatial quality, the architect has designed a house that integrates the programme seamlessly, both in terms of circulation and structure. Movement through this concrete loop traces the pattern of one’s day activities. Arranged over in three levels, the loop includes two studies (one on either side of the house for the respective professions), three bedrooms, a meeting room and kitchen, storage, and living room and a greenhouse on the top, all intertwined during a complex voyage in time.
With its low and elongated outlines, the house provides a link between the different features of its surroundings. By stretching the building’s form in an extreme way and through an extensive use of glass walls, the house is able to incorporate aspects of the landscape. From inside the house, it is as if the inhabitant is taking a walk in the countryside.
The perception of movement is reinforced by the changing positions of the two main materials used for the house, glass, and concrete, which overlap each other and switch places. As the loop turns inside out, the exterior concrete shell becomes interior furniture – such as tables and stairs – and the glass facades turn into inside partition walls.
The contortions and twists in the house go beyond the mathematical diagram. They refer to a movement that has moulded a new way of life as a consequence of using electronic devices at work. Ben van Berkel has managed to give an additional meaning to the diagram of the Möbius band, where its new symbolic value – characterised by the blurred limits between working and living – corresponds to the clients’ way of life.