Design Spotlight: A Modern Home Near Zurich

Swiss architect Philippe Stuebi’s O House features glass bricks, massive skylight, and round windows inspired by car wheels.

To design lovers, Philippe Stuebi’s O House, 40 miles outside Zurich, is a breakthrough in residential architecture, a sophisticated mash-up of references to Venetian palazzi and tropical modernism. To locals who share the view of Lake Lucerne, it’s an anomaly that evokes a Connect Four board or the country’s signature cheese. “Swiss people prefer something discreet and calm—the houses here are so understated,” Stuebi explains. “My architecture is more expressive, a little exotic.”

It helped that his client, a dealer and collector of luxury cars, wanted to make a statement. Among his few requests were an underground garage (illuminated by a skylight carved into the driveway above) that holds a dozen cars (mostly Ferraris), and a space for lakeside parties. The rest was left to the imagination of Stuebi, who was little-known outside Switzerland until his creation was hailed by the blogosphere.

A tour of the O House is an aesthetic adventure that begins with seven-foot circular holes in the concrete façade—locating the front door is a kind of shell game—continues inside with perforated walls and views of Mount Pilatus, and ends with a white terrazzo staircase that cascades down to the pool. Or pools. When the client couldn’t decide between an indoor and an outdoor pool, Stuebi gave him both, dividing them with a retractable wall and adding a boathouse with a kitchen and a bar. With amenities like that, Stuebi’s mid-century-inspired masterpiece deserves an even more apt moniker: the Ooh House.