The new housing for Katzenbach is part of a general transformation process on the edge of Zurich replacing older “Garden Developments” with high-density housing. The design language of the central plaza grows out of the logic of the overall housing scheme in which open spaces flowing between the linear buildings alternate between two contrasting typologies and atmospheres. The ‘Tree Courtyards’ continue the larger scale of the surrounding woods set forth with the play of light and shadow among high deciduous trees on an open ground plane. Alternating, the ‘Flowering Courtyards’ lie above underground parking where only smaller vegetation is possible. These gardens interpret of the private gardens in the former Row House typology anew with a dense fill of vegetative colors, forms and textures.

The central plaza, a play and meeting space with garden pavillon, follows the logic of the ‚Tree Courtyards’. Within the rigid placement of the housing buildings an ephemeral atmosphere is created using the play of light and shadow created by the canopies of the trees as the central idea. The light roof of leaves, the vertikal trunks and the cast shadows upon the ground plane are the determining elements of the design, echoed in variations within the design.

The ground plane of the plaza abstractly emulates the projection of light and shadow through the trees and animating users to meander through the space. A water plane level with the paving reflects the open sky or leafy roof depending on the location of the viewer. Seating elements dissolve themselves into the language of the voids between leaves, The palette of trees with their lacy leaves shimmer between various shades of green into a hazy mixture of tones difficult to grasp at a glance. (Robinia pseudoacacia, Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’, Fraxinus excelsior ‘Jaspidea’ und Pinus sylvestris). The tree trunks are echoed in the dark columns of the pavillon and play landscape made up of cables and posts winding bewteen the trees.

A wide variety of uses for diverse user groups are woven inconspicuously into the plaza such as the climbing landscape, sand and water, play elements, grill space, swings, and enormous seating elements with and without back rests used for groups of children and adults to congregate.

Central Plaza: Cooperative Housing Katzenbach
Landscape Architecture: Robin Winogron, realisation with Studio Vulkan Landschaftsarchitektur
Project: Central Plaza: Cooperative Housing Katzenbach
Completed: 2011
Location: Zürich, Switzerland
Area: 11’500 m2
Client: Baugenossenschaft Glatttal Zürich
Photographs: Robin Winogrond, Daniela Valentini

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