Möbius House / UNStudio | Classics on Architecture Lab

Architects: UNStudio
Area: 520 m²
Year: 1998
Photographs: Christian Richters, Eva Bloem
City: Hilversum
Country: The Netherlands

Möbius House designed by UNStudio in Het Gooi, Netherlands, exemplifies an innovative approach to residential architecture. Completed in 1998, this project integrates the Möbius strip concept to create a seamless blend of living and working spaces, reflecting the dynamic lifestyle of its inhabitants.`Möbius House designed by UNStudio in Het Gooi, Netherlands, exemplifies an innovative approach to residential architecture. Completed in 1998, this project integrates the Möbius strip concept to create a seamless blend of living and working spaces, reflecting the dynamic lifestyle of its inhabitants.

In 1993, a professional couple from Amsterdam embarked on a mission to build a unique private residence that would set a new benchmark in architectural language. They approached several architects, including Rem Koolhaas, but ultimately chose Dutch architect Ben van Berkel, who developed a vision for the project inspired by the Möbius loop.

The house, located in Het Gooi, underwent several design iterations over five years, consistently returning to the Möbius loop concept. This single-sided surface with no boundaries symbolized a new architectural language, integrating the family’s activities within a dynamic structure. Completed in 1998, the house quickly gained international recognition and became a manifesto for its architect, illustrating an organizational principle that informed its final design.

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The Möbius House creates a fluid circulation between different functional spaces, catering to work, sleep, play, socializing, and intimacy. The Möbius loop shape is linked to the idea of the family’s 24-hour living and working cycle. As the loop inverts, the exterior becomes the interior and vice versa, forging a strong relationship between the house and the landscape. Van Berkel’s interest in mathematics, science, complexity theory, chaos theory, and topological surfaces influenced the design.

Terence Riley, curator of the ‘The Un-Private House’ exhibition at MoMA, explained that this architectural loop produces a continuity and integration of living and working areas. He noted that the concrete and glass exterior of the house seems to fold back on itself: from one perspective, the glass appears as a skin slipped over a concrete house; from another, the building looks like a glass house framed by concrete.

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The complex design benefited significantly from 3D computer modeling. Initially hand-drawn, the design process became computerized by 1995, thanks to Van Berkel’s involvement with Columbia University’s paperless studio. This technology allowed for a new type of experimentation, combining drawing and modeling to create complex spatial effects. The Möbius House became a pioneering example of parametric design.

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In an interview with Vladimir Belogolovsky, Ben van Berkel described the period as very exciting, with extensive experimentation on how parametric variants could manipulate computational design. He noted that it was a special moment for parametric design, being very fresh and promising.

Functionally, the house includes two work studios alongside typical residential elements. Van Berkel and Bos used this project to explore spatial ambiguity, designing two independent circulation paths running parallel through a space sequence. The Möbius strip concept transforms two surfaces into one continuous surface, extending primary circulation paths along the longitudinal axis and connecting various programmed spaces. The spaces continuously contract and expand in response to the residents’ daily routines.

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Within the house, spaces are defined by ceiling height variations rather than walls and doors. Higher ceilings accommodate dynamic social interactions, while lower ceilings create intimate atmospheres. Abstract furniture pieces emerge from the building’s massing, subtly indicating the intended use of each space. These form variations, combined with sculptural elements and a design encouraging curiosity, transform the structure from a mere ‘machine for living’ into an ‘environment for living.’

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The house features a minimal material palette, primarily concrete and glass, which underscores the dynamic tectonics of the design. The interplay of heaviness and transparency conveys movement. A south-facing curtain wall, interrupted by a concrete obstruction, orients views and introduces a rhythmic perception of spaces. Concrete cantilevered elements interact with circulation paths and living spaces, serving as sculptural highlights.

Ben van Berkel particularly appreciated one cantilever over the entry that leads to the master bedroom. He described it as a moment of suspension where the landscape dramatically opens up, allowing one to step into the landscape through the residential architecture.

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The folding and unfolding of spaces embed the structure within its wooded plot, with glazed surfaces interacting with the landscape. As the loop inverts, the exterior becomes interior furniture, creating an artificial landscape.

According to Ben van Berkel, the Möbius House emerged from a four-quadrant layout, a landscape design idea. Each quadrant has a dedicated zone for each of the four people in the house, combined with a figure-eight-shaped path in the natural landscape. This design aims to merge the experience of exploring the four quadrants into one organizational entity.

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Upon completion, the Möbius House received immediate recognition and was widely published both in the Netherlands and internationally. In 1999, the Museum of Modern Art in New York featured the project in a major exhibition titled “The Un-Private House.” By then, Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos had relaunched their office as UNStudio. Despite its modest size, the project marked a pivotal moment in van Berkel’s career, establishing him as an innovator and pioneer of parametric design and serving as a manifesto for the future works of UNStudio.

Project Gallery
Project Location

Address: Het Gooi, Hilversum, North Holland, Netherlands

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