Swimming pool in Halen, Photo: Yoshi Kusana, ©Yoshi Kusana, Bern

Bernd Upmeyer interviewed Heinz Müller of the Swiss architecture collective “Atelier 5”, where he has been working since 1968 and of which he has been one of the partners since 1986. Atelier 5 was established in 1955 in Bern by five architects: Fritz Erwin, Samuel Gerber, Rolf Hesterberg, Hans Hostettler and Alfredo Pini. Their “Siedlung Halen”, realised between 1958-62 is known worldwide as a seminal example of the integration of the common areas and common facilities in residential settlements.

Siedlung Halen

Bernd Upmeyer: Atelier 5’s project “Halen” is known worldwide as a pioneering project when it comes to the integration of the common areas and communal facilities in residential settlements. What did Atelier 5 try to achieve originally and what role did communal life play in the project?
Heinz Müller: It all started in 1954 when the five young architects Fritz, Hesterberg, Hostettler, Pini, and Gerber, who had arrived in 1955 from Brazil, were sitting in Hans Brechbühler’s office in Bern being not overly busy. At that time they were dreaming of building something by themselves and therefore in need of a plot of land, which they eventually found five kilometers north of Bern. This plot, however, was too big for a couple of private houses for their own use and thus they started sketching plans for a settlement. The integration of the common areas and communal facilities was supposed to stimulate the social behavior of residents, counteract social segregation, and create a platform that could be taken and inhabited by the people as an extension of and complement to their own houses.

BU: And later on, what was the atmosphere like in this settlement and how did community life there develop?
HM: When I, for example, moved to Halen myself, which was during the summer, I had the impression that I was in a Club Méditerranée. It was a kind of touristy, village-like atmosphere, because when the weather is nice, most people are outside. But it had also something to do with the fact that the Halen settlement had quite a lot of children. Because with around 230 to 240 residents there are also quite a lot of children, approximately 40. And these children are then also outside not only during good weather in the summer, but even during bad weather in the winter. At the same time the adults sit a lot outside in the evenings and for dinner as well. That is a bit what the mood in the settlement is like…

…the complete interview was published in MONU #18 on the topic of Communal Urbanism on April 23, 2013.

Title: Promoting Communal Life
Project: Interview with Heinz Müller/ Atelier 5
Date: January 2013
Type: Commissioned interview
Topic: Communal Urbanism
Organizer: MONU
Status: Published
Publications: MONU #18, P.81-88
Interviewer: Bernd Upmeyer