john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors gili merin exterior
The Wall House II | © Gili Merin

John Hejduk, one of the famous New York Five, is best known for his exceptional creativity and highly conceptual work in the architectural domain. His Wall House II, also known as the Bye House, is one such masterpiece that has provoked contemplation and emerged as a remarkable pedagogical tool in architecture studies. Built-in 2001 in Groningen, the Netherlands, nearly three decades after its design was conceptualized, the Wall House II synthesizes time, space, and existence into an architectural marvel, reflecting the very essence of Hejduk’s design philosophy.

Wall House II Technical Information

I believe in the poetics of architecture. Architecture is a communicative art. It must speak to us, move us, touch our lives, and make us aware of our human condition.

– John Hejduk3

Wall House II Photographs

john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors gili merin exterior
© Gili Merin
john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors gili merin exterior
© Gili Merin
john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors gili merin exterior
© Gili Merin
john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors interior
john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors interior
john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors model

Composition of the Wall House II

At its core, Wall House II embodies a conflict between two fundamental architectural elements – the wall and the house. It showcases a unique spectacle of forms and functions intertwined into a complex layout. The most prominent feature of the building is a colossal linear wall extending far beyond the main body of the house. The structure on one side of the wall houses living quarters, while the other comprises a library and an artist’s studio. Notably, these sections remain disconnected yet bound to each other, signifying a deep poetic and philosophical commentary on the divisions of human life.

The structure appears as an assemblage of cubic volumes suspended along a longitudinal concrete wall. The residential area consists of a three-story unit with a garage at the ground level, living quarters in the middle, and a master suite on top. Conversely, the studio library is encapsulated in a single-story cubic structure. The gigantic wall not only separates these units but also supports them structurally, providing a stark yet fascinating contrast between the solid, monolithic concrete wall and the colorful, modernistic cubic volumes.

Symbolic Reflections of Life and Time

Wall House II is also a profound architectural narrative of Hejduk’s deeply ingrained perceptions of life, time, and existence. Hejduk, a thinker, and poet as much as an architect, designed this house as a reflection on the transience and permanence of human life. The wall represents the linear progression of time – constant, unyielding, and permanent. The individual blocks, on the other hand, symbolize the transient phases of life.

The placement of the house’s components, each fulfilling a different function and distinctly separated by the imposing wall, metaphorically express the fragments of human existence. The garage denotes the material aspects of life, the living area symbolizes daily existence, and the upper bedroom signifies the private realm of dreams and introspection. Meanwhile, the artist’s studio library serves as a space for creative contemplation and intellectual pursuit.

Wall House II: An Architectural Pedagogical Tool

The Wall House II not only presents an architectural spectacle but also serves as a powerful learning tool. By physically articulating the abstract ideas of time, existence, and the dichotomy of life, it offers insights into the deep philosophical aspects of architectural design. The house encourages us to view architecture not just as a physical construct but as an expressive medium that can portray intangible concepts and human conditions.

The building’s design methodology pushes the boundaries of traditional architectural norms and principles. It raises important questions about the role of architecture in reflecting social, cultural, and personal aspects of human life. As a result, the Wall House II has become an essential study model for aspiring architects, inspiring them to incorporate thoughtful conceptualization in their design processes.

Hejduk’s Wall House II is a testament to the power of architectural language and its ability to narrate a philosophical tale. It is a tangible poem encapsulating the essence of human existence in a unique architectural syntax. This masterpiece elegantly reminds us that architecture can be much more than just bricks, mortar, and utilitarian spaces; it can be a medium to express our deepest philosophical thoughts and reflections on existence and time.

Wall House II: A Radical Impact on Contemporary Architecture

Despite the belated realization of Wall House II, its influence on contemporary architectural design thinking is profound and lasting. Its peculiar layout, abstract organization, and radical expression have inspired architects globally to delve deeper into architecture’s philosophical and emotional aspects, breaking away from conventional notions of form and function.

The house’s distinct design vocabulary, characterized by its deconstruction of typical residential components, allows for an in-depth exploration of spaces and their existential meaning. It has challenged the contemporary architectural approach to consider the notion of ‘dwelling’ not just as a physical but also as a psychological, emotional, and philosophical concept.

Wall House II Plans

john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors axonometric
Axonometric View | © John Hejduk
john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors facade
© John Hejduk
john hejduk wall house II ArchEyes Colors drawings
Drawing | © John Hejduk

About John Hejduk

John Hejduk (1929–2000) was an American architect, artist, and educator of Czech origin known for his deeply philosophical and poetic approach to architecture. A leading figure of the New York Five – a group of architects who championed a return to modernist principles – Hejduk’s work was highly conceptual, often exploring the boundaries of architecture and art. His designs, like the famous Wall House II, integrated a powerful narrative and philosophical reflections on time and human existence. Beyond his design practice, he profoundly influenced architectural pedagogy as the Dean of the School of Architecture at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. 
Works from John Hejduk

  1. Construction Company: BAM Wilma bv
  2. Developer: Göningen Town Hall
  3. Sanctuaries: The Last Works of John Hejduk  by K. Michael Hays