Large-scale Cultural Transformation

Escher-Wyss & Co.: what used to sound like grease and asphalt desert now houses an unusual mix of culture, technology, business premises and residential space and an area with bars and restaurants. City life is also flourishing in the outside spaces of Zurich West, in an asphalt oasis of industrial dimensions: the shipbuilding quarter. The design of the outside space combines a complex set of requirements between looking after historic structures and elements, usage, water infiltration, ecology and design.

Grass, Industrial Location, City Square

In 1890 the engineering works Escher-Wyss & Co. laid the foundation stone for Zurich West in the meadows of Aussersihl. In 2000 city planning made the industrial structures the benchmark of today’s quarter. Its heart was created in 2017: a new commercial building was constructed beside the renovated Schiffbauhalle, which made the listed Schiffbauplatz available and contextualised it further with its surroundings. The design of the outside space continues the area’s narrative with the rough elegance, generous gestures and powerful details of the industrial world. It surprises with depth under concrete planks and subtle irritation.

Time and Water as Designers

Three spaces reveal themselves as inlays in the urban ground: the Schiffbauplatz is a patchwork of asphalt shaded by trees, whose weighty seating solutions are reminiscent of bollards. In the urban park reeds and willows sprout through the floor planks above a retention and seepage reservoir. Giessereistrasse welcomes visitors by the old tall chimney on steel grilles, through which moisture-loving plants emerge. The historical stock and design language provide a sense of identity, the water, however, is the designing force: invisible in the foreground, but formative.

Client: Allreal West AG, Zurich

Project competition: 1st prize, 2014

Project planning: 2015-2016

Implementation: 2016-2017

Area: 5’900 m²

Architects: Baukontor Architekten AG, Zurich

Photograph: vetschpartner, Giuseppe Micciché

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