On a recent trip to Zurich, I spent a great deal of my spare time checking out new housing developments that share some features: They are located just west of the city (in the Albisrieden and Friesenberg areas); they have multiple buildings placed across designed landscapes, construction around the Garden City ideas of the middle of the 20th century; they provide conveniences for the mostly middle-class families occupying them plus they incorporate terraces to provide individual outdoor spaces, in addition to the shared outdoor spaces between buildings.
This ideabook tours four of the housing developments, focusing on the buildings and the spaces between. Where possible, I’ve connected to floor programs, to help you realize how the units relate to the exteriors and how they provide for your households living in them. In a lot of ways the jobs remind me of mid-20th-century multifamily developments in the Western suburbs, however, the Swiss jobs change upon some of the limited and negative aspects (surface parking, catering to singles as opposed to families etc.) that made these developments short-lived. In this sense these four jobs offer some alternatives for how families may live together in nice settings.
Sunnige Hof, 2012
Burkhalter Sumi Architects
Vogt Landscape Architects
This project adds density into a 1950s cooperative housing settlement designed by architects Sauter and Dirler, which put three- to – five-story buildings loosely across the landscape. The Garden City ideals have been continued in both new buildings, which are taller, bigger and more colorful than the present buildings.
The six new buildings have been replacements for the same number of current buildings that were demolished; this is about a third of the 1950s cooperative. The new rectangular buildings have rounded corners and are also put informally across the landscape, as if they were formed and found by hypothetical currents of water flowing round the site. Their form and positioning allow for views, variety and sunlight.
The positioning and orientation of the buildings allow for a variety of views through and round the site. In this scenario we could see four buildings receding into the distance. The landscape architecture helps to specify outdoor “rooms” adjacent to the buildings that may be used for an assortment of functions; in my trip a dinner was occurring in one of these areas, and a lot of children were running around.
In addition to a community room on the ground floor of one of the buildings, every one of the six buildings includes an area for strollers and one for bikes near the entry.
This view says a lot about the preparation of the new development, as well as a tiny bit about the units themselves. In the foreground we could see a tiny concrete pavilion of types; it is actually an entry to the below-grade parking garage, a common component in each of the developments I seen. Considering that the eliminate from the city, cars are common and therefore provided for in a way that allows for the areas between the buildings to be used for things apart from parking. Nevertheless, this endeavor is a brief five-minute walk from trams and buses that attract one to other parts of the city. (The transit methods is very comprehensive and efficient, if pricey — like everything else in the city.)
Shade is used to distinguish one building from another, on the frames, the surrounds and the walls. The latter are ubiquitous in Switzerland, given that the lack of air conditioning (not needed, given that the brief summer). Blocking the summer sun is the ideal method to cool interiors, and this also applies to the corner terraces also, which have drapes for extra shade.
Running from one garage entry to another is that this piece of sculpture that covers the port for the garage. It both celebrates and covers (imagine the view from above, both without and with the canopies) what is happening under, which would otherwise be only a lengthy grate.
Considering that the curved corners of these buildings, it makes sense that generous balconies would happen here. Per some typical floor plans, four components are supplied on each floor, many with two or three bedrooms and two baths. The corner terraces are adjacent to living-dining areas that aren’t too large but are generous when the outdoor area is taken into consideration.
Ersatzneubauten Triemli, 2011
Von Ballmoos Krucker Architects
Vi.vo Landscape Architects
This large home improvement of 200 units replaces a number of buildings from a 1940s Garden City housing development designed by Karl and Wilhelm Müller. The development is located at the intersection of two busy roads (and a major transit hub) and takes its name from the local Triemli Hospital. Its location also benefits from the mountain that overlooks it around the west.
The focus of the development is a big landscaped open area that, like the buildings, is broken to appear smaller and comprise separate zones. But instead of stepping like these buildings do, the landscape has angled planes and ramps to link, in this view, a playground into a fountain and also to connect the buildings into different parts of the landscape.
Contrary to Sunnige Hof’s tactic of breaking up the development into a number of buildings, this development is composed of two big buildings that snake around the perimeter of the site to specify the big, open space between and offer access to it.
The landscape isn’t limited to the space between the buildings; it also includes the area around it. Here, looking toward the inside zone from the west, we could observe some planters that form a community garden.
Two 100-unit concrete buildings certainly seem overwhelming, but as executed the project is anything but. This is due to the landscape structure, the way the buildings follow the topography, the entries that divide the length while they provide access from one side of the building to another (also featuring stroller and bike storage), and the breaking up of the mass throughout inset and Juliet balconies. As with all the other developments, subterranean parking allows the landscape, instead of parked cars, to be a major area of the plan.
If we have a look at some typical unit floor plan, we could see that the apartments extend from one facade into another. This means that each unit (the one connected has two bedrooms, two baths plus a den) has one terrace plus one balcony, plus a three-quarter elevation. The shallower balconies (some are shown here) still enable one to sit outside and to have planters.
Even the terraces, on the other hand, are quite generous and therefore are much more of an extension of the living room. Carpets on tracks make it possible for residents to cut back on direct sun and preserve privacy.
Siedlung Grünmatt FGZ, 2014
Graber Pulver Architects
4d AG Landscape Architects
This undertaking, roughly two-thirds of the way through construction, is composed of four parallel, curving strips that follow the landscape and also embrace the sunlight. North-facing elevations (left) are primarily solid and flat, whereas the sides facing south (right) are heavy and noticeable by columns in front of terraces. In between are walkways between lawns that are occasionally recreational and occasionally plots for small urban farming.
Note that each construction is a split level: Three stories face north, and two stories face south, after the sloped topography of the site.
Each curving bar is really composed of a number of buildings, permitting access from one degree of outdoor space to another. On my trip these spaces in between (two of three of them are busy) were abuzz with kids playing, parents making dinner and people just relaxing outside in the sun.
As with all the other developments, parking is under the buildings, freeing up the space between buildings for landscaped yards. Furthermore, garbage and other communal facilities (such as composting) are located at the ends of each pub.
The components are a mixture of wide single-story apartments (the connected plan indicates a two-bedroom, 11/2-bathroom unit plus a three-bedroom, two-bath unit) and narrow, three-story row houses (the connected plan has 3 bedrooms and two baths). Each unit, such as in the Triemli development, extends from front to back, meaning that light and air are maximized, and some units have both a front yard and a garden.
The south-facing elevations are the nicest part of these buildings, producing some depth and giving terraces to occupants on the upper floors, who do not have a yard.
Wohnüberbauung Wasserschöpfi, 2011
Althammer Hochuli Architects
Vogt Landscape Architects
This last development echoes many of the qualities of the other jobs (multiple buildings around landscaped grounds, subterranean parking, individual terraces, Garden City roots etc.) though on a slightly bigger scale — 11 buildings with four stories each.
The parallel buildings bend in plan to offer some variety and follow the sloping topography of the site. The project is only steps away from a train (the tracks could be seen in the lower left, and the channel is just out of sight under them) with rapid access to central Zurich. But as with all the other jobs, parking is provided below grade; the small pavilion in the previous photograph is one access point to the garage.
Concrete was used for its outside, especially glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) in lightweight panels using a white coating shade. As in the Sunnige Hof earlier, terraces are cut to the corners, which makes for pleasing outdoor spaces and some solitude, because the terraces appear in the same direction and therefore not directly at one another.
A floor plan of one of the 11 buildings reveals the positioning of these mostly corner terraces, which correspond to fairly large units — four- and four-bedroom apartments to a floor. Components on the end advantage from three frontages, while people in the middle nevertheless have front and rear facades, meaning air and light are maximized.
The project is reminiscent of a popular fad in Zurich to give middle-class households decent-size units inside pleasing settings, close to transport yet still using the advantage of a place to store a vehicle. It’s the best of both worlds, the urban and suburban, of landscape and buildings.