Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne

Revolutionary concepts for housing estates are a thing of the past. Out­standing examples of co-operative housing estate design, in which archi­tecture and the planning of open space complemented each other in graceful moderation, are now listed monuments. Building firms operate on different premises from those of 100 years ago. But the desire for community, for contact between residents, is still the same as ever.

A bronze sculpture in the Berne ‘Im Park’ estate is an impressive confirma­tion of this. It stands at the centre of a paved circle in a round pool 25 metres in diameter, and points up to the light with three columns about five metres high. Water streams and patters play­fully over the curved collar from one column to the next, then falls into the pool. When the wind makes the curtains of water into thin veils, the static columns seem to become figures danc­ing with each other – an image of community.

As in numerous other housing es­tates, open space plays a key role in the Ittigen residential park in Berne. Here 700 people go in and out of 222 flats in 12 buildings. They are looking for places where they can get together or play, for points that they can identify in the traffic-free inner courtyard, which covers about 6,000 square metres. The sloping site on the northern periphery of the Swiss capital offered an outstanding opportunity to put collected rainwater through its paces.

Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, BerneThe water starts to flow from five source bowls at the highest point of the courtyard, then collects at first in a pool surmounted by large Norway maples. Large stepping stones in limestone from the nearby Bernese Alps accompany the water to this shady, highly authentic source point. Then the water flows down the slope, into gravelled channels. Occa­sionally a ford passes through these, made of natural stone columns placed

Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne

Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne

Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne

 

The water sculpture in winter: the frozen work of art plays with the frosty light.

 

on their sides, and there are also con­crete shapes that the water flows through as gliding and deflecting slopes. At the edge of the steps leading down to the so-called arena, curved concrete channels are built in, and the water falls from these in a phased rhythm, flowing on to the fountain sculpture in a straight line and returning from there to the source point. If there is a great deal of rainfall, surplus water passes from the fountain basin to two ponds designed to be as close to nature as possible.

The site has cellars under most of the area, and gains its dynamic from a thoughtfully linked network of paths, a lively topography, from alternating open spaces and intimate niches, and the various opportunities to meet others or to hide, to enjoy the sun or seek out some shade. But without the subtle effect of water in the pools, channels, cascades or fountains the residents would find it very difficult to identify this courtyard as something special, as their own particular habitat with lots of intriguing sub-habitats. And it is not until the water in the fountain sculpture freezes into an icy artwork that the three columns seem to stand together properly for the first time, out there in the freezing cold.

 

Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne

Who is crossing whom?

The water has the same rights as the path, the cracks allow for constant eye contact with the water.

 

Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne

People walking at the watercourse source.

The source feeds through five flowforms.

 

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Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, BerneOpen space for a residential development in Ittigen, BerneOpen space for a residential development in Ittigen, BerneOpen space for a residential development in Ittigen, BerneOpen space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne

Open space for a residential development in Ittigen, Berne