Zurich’s earliest housing cooperatives (e.g. Limmat I) were naturally designed and built on a tight budget, but in the battle between utility and expression, it was private plumbing that was cut from the budget rather than the more expressive architectural elements of the façade—bay windows, articulated corners, public fountains, and dormer windows. Some twenty years later—in the spirit of the Neue Sachlichkeit—both utility and architectural articulation were nixed in favour of maximum quantity. Erismannhof is typical of the late 1920’s in that baths remained in the basement and architectural refinement became more frugal or graphic in character.
In this revision of Erismannhof, plumbing comes to the fore, generating—and increasingly consuming—the interior as one moves up through the building. The bathrooms and kitchens receive a sensuous materiality that spills out into the living space. Pipes, no longer repressed, become a sign of luxury. The intervention—while ascetic in detail—forms a strong urban figure that presides over the block, nodding to its Viennese cousin, the pioneer of collective plumbing and expression.