All of a sudden: silence.
The intimacy of a public space
Between the dominant urban spaces of Europaalle and Lagerstrasse, there is a courtyard that discreetly blends into the fabric of the public spaces of the new city district. Alleyways cut through the compact block and intertwine with the stone carpets that lead out to the surrounding boulevards. Sweeping archway entrances lead into the courtyard and act as gates between two worlds with completely different mechanics. Stepping out of the bustle and into the calm, leaving the big city for the village, going from motion to a standstill. The courtyard, a compact cube of approximately 30 x 30 x 30 metres, embodies a sense of sanctity. It has been created through the convalescence of various architectural facades that stand in stark contrast to one another in terms of material and topographical design. These surfaces complement the light shell limestone floor, which is home to a built-in water feature. The ever-changing light reflects in dynamic patterns against the facades, imbuing the space with theatrical movement.
The efficient space and attention to detail evident in the surface materials create a strong presence that serves as an escape from the flurry of the city. By making a clear distinction between this space and the surroundings, the courtyard manages to achieve a peacefulness uncommon in public spaces. This tranquillity is undercut by a sense of alienation, intimacy and slight unease. The sudden silence is broken by a murmur, a glint in the water, the slightly musty smell of moss and fern. The space indulges the senses, offering a moment of respite in a world driven ever onwards by the beat of the work drum. A sense of calm is reflected in the design elements, which have been reduced to stone, water, fern and – with a bit of time and patience – a slow-growing moss carpet. Furnishings of any other kind have been deliberately avoided.
The cracked shell limestone slabs, cut to size for the floor, conjure up a landscape that celebrates the interplay of stone and water. Indeed, its dimensions seem to change with each angle. Through the powerful facades and from the inside, it creates a spatially divided, moss-covered rocky relief in miniature form that invites transition and pause. In contrast, a view from above reveals an abstract image of alternating stone slabs that alter their expression according to reflections of the light.
Landscape: Studio Vulkan Lanschaftsarchitektur
Location: Europaallee 21, Zurich, Switzerland
Project phases: Construction 2012-2013
Contractor: UBS, Implenia Schweiz AG
Architect: Max Dudler, Gigon Guyer, David Chipperfield
Photography: Stefan Müller, Daniela Valentini