Visits of Housing Projects in Zurich, 20th November 2019

After the 2nd Mid Term Crit, the Studio went on a one-day-trip to visit different housing projects in Zurich. This was a great opportunity to discover some interesting examples of housing buildings and other forms of living, but also an additional source of inspiration for the housing projects of the Studio. The focus was laid on projects which are exceptionally well integrated in their immediate surroundings and which react to the city through their architecture as it is the case of Wohnüberbauung Rigiplatz by Knapkiewicz Fickert; are working with existing structures, combining old with new as it is the case of Genossenschaft Dreieck by Fahrländer Scherrer Architekten among others; are based on a communitarian ideal and exploring cooperative forms of living as it is the case of Genossenschaft Kalkbreite by Müller Sigrist Architekten. The Studio was accompanied by the architects of each project, which made the visits particularly insightful and very instructive.

We started our day by having breakfast all together at the bakery Stocker in the eastern block of the Rigiblick housing project, completed by architect Kaschka Knapkiewicz, who had already accompanied us as a guest critic the day before, and her partner Axel Fickert in 2010. Kaschka Knapkiewicz walked us around the whole building with 16 apartments, commercial and communal spaces, telling us about its history, from the competition in 1997 organized by a building cooperative until its realization less than 10 years ago and how this time span changed their understanding on working with the existing.

We noticed how the building is changing in a very coherent way its morphology along the perimeter, reacting to the slope and the city, creating a complicity with the neighboring existing house. Through the outside staircase, we reached the top floor of the western block, where we got the chance of entering an apartment through a very impressive terrace, thus capturing the whole complexity and richness of the project: from the delicate urban setting towards a very busy road on the north side, the buildings are disclosing themselves to the city on the south side, in an endless generosity of details, materials and colours.

We continued our tour by taking the tram towards the city center, making our way to the Housing Cooperative Dreieck. We seized this moment to clarify some of the comments and remarks from the guest critics of the day before, discussing about the strategy to approach for the four weeks left of the semester.

At the Dreieck (i.e. «triangle», referring to the shape of the block of buildings), we got welcomed by Kaspar Fahrländer, architect of one of the newly added housing blocks, who completed the project on Gartenhofstrasse in 2002. In the Kantine, Kaspar Fahrländer gave us an historical introduction on the Cooperative, telling us how a collectivity of architects, which developed a thorough urban and economical study, managed to save the whole plot from being torn down by the city in the 1980s. The overall approach of the project was to follow the principle of a gentle restauration, replacing parts only when needed, through a series of limited but necessary interventions. The project connected old and new houses with communal terraces, improving the existing and generating new typologies to embrace different users with larger apartments for families or shared flats for a total of 60 flats.

Guillaume, an inhabitant who had lived here for more than 10 years, told us more about the communitarian way of living and functioning of the Dreieck and how the residents regularly meet to discuss about the Cooperative’s future. We then all went up to visit his house, where confined nuclei of bedrooms with bathrooms are connected by a very large common space. We got intrigued by the way the new building is sharing not only a detached terrace, but also the staircase with the restored old building. From the terrace, we could notice how old and new are forming a unit and how the courtyard welcomes different shared uses of the cooperative.

After lunch, we met architect Pascal Müller at the foot of the outside stairs of Kalkbreite, who introduced us the history of the project. The plot of land was leased to the Cooperative Kalkbreite to certain number of conditions (clear concept along with a financial security, 2% of area for the needs of the city, no speculation ...), which then organized the competition in 2006. The winning entry by Müller Sigrist was characterized by a courtyard type with cut angles, where all housing functions start at a level of 8m, on top of the depot for trams underneath.

The project stood out with its density: not by getting higher and larger, but by mixing uses and proposing a compactnessofactivitiesonitsinside. Inthemainentrancehall,wegotapeekatthemultifunctionalspacewhichis both used by inhabitants for coffee breaks or as an office space for meetings. The building accommodates in a ratio of 60% housing and 40% other activities a total amount of 90 apartments. We were very impressed by the palette of units that Kalkbreite is proposing, from 25m2 till 250m2 big apartments, where at least one person should occupy a room as a rule. In the large corridors, we got an insight of the complex circulation logic of Kalkbreite, working as a street, promoting the social interaction between the residents on different levels with other kinds of meeting spaces: extra living-rooms with balconies, rooms without defined function, ... We finally ended up again in the remarkable courtyard, which is considered to be a common terrace or park for the whole cooperative.

We concluded our one-day-tour by visiting another depot for trams at Hard, next to Escher-Wyss-Platz. The captivating hybrid from the early XXth century construct mixing housing with infrastructure is soon to be extended by a large-scale building with high-rises. We reflected about the innovative of the solution and we compared it the visit to Kalkbreite. With that on mind, and the important value of existing buildings, the Studio grasped the chance to reflect on the future project, that is to be built here in the next years, followed by a critical discussion among the students about the complex issue of dealing with existing structures.


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