The new Buchegg Housing Cooperative is part of the rapid process of densification in Zurich. Three, seven story buildings form a large central courtyard located between a dynamic traffic hub, steep street with shops, a view to the Alps, and 1940’s low-rise housing. The challenge of the residential open space was to create the right sense of scale. The large building volumes must enter into dialogue with their varied urban contexts. The courtyard, used daily by hundreds of diverse users, must simultaneously offer a sense of a generosity and expanse while creating lively social settings and intimate niches. The goal was to bring the enormous scale down to create an appropriate sense of “home”. Three elements create a sense of scale: topographic plateaus, vegetation and a fountain. Within the simple, robust design attention to details creates an atmosphere of intimacy.

On the gently sloping site topographic plateaus are created by walls, dividing the courtyard and street spaces into usable zones. The walls are used for seating and gathering, making lively social settings at building entrances and in the courtyard itself. The walls form site specific spaces each with specific uses and atmospheres. Large trees and flowering shrubs, form an ensemble with the walls, create a variety of social settings. The large trees break the direct views of apartments to each other within the yard.

A 4.5m play fountain designed for this site is the social magnet of the courtyard. The circular outer form is contrasted by its organic inner form, playing with water’s fluid characteristics. The sensual terrazzo surface invites children to sit, lie, slide and bathe. The fountain, used by people of all ages functions as a water and play element in summer and a sculpture and seating element in winter.

The courtyard remains empty, emphasizing the alpine views and allowing sun to pour into the narrow yard. It is subtlety divided into four terraced zones with walls. Each zone responds to its particular context. The individual open spaces are designed to be informal and encourage being flexibly appropriated for different uses by different users. The walls serve for casual gatherings, as play elements, for waiting on others, or setting down carried items at your house entrance.

At the top an urban plaza with fountain, in the middle playing and picnic fields, below the playground, where noise of children and gatherers won’t echo in the yard.

For the ground floor shops and housing entrances, terraced plateaus, seating walls and small flowering trees create an appropriate sense of scale and place.

Project Data

Landscape Architecture: design by Robin Winogrond Landscape Architecture. Urban Design., realisation with Studio Vulkan

Address: Bucheggplatz, Zurich, Switzerland
Competition: 2010, 1st prize, Robin Winogrond with Duplex Architects
Design: 2010-2013
Realisation: 2017
Client: Baugenossenschaft Waidberg, Zurich
Architects: Duplex Architekten, Zurich
Photography: Das Bild, Robin Winogrond

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