The roof of an underground car park became the seed for a new town planning approach: the decision to move the parking spaces in front of Zurich’s opera house under the famous Sechseläutenwiese paved the way for the creation of Switzerland’s largest town square. It is designed to act as an extension to the opera house and as a stage of public life.
Until 2011 the famous Sechseläutenwiese (a meadow) was situated between the old town, busy roads, sonorous culture and the lake. It was intensively used during events, at other times unused land in a prime location. As part of the comprehensive project ‘Opera House, Underground Car Park Opéra and Sechseläutenplatz’ it was transformed into a square.
12,000 square metres of silvery-grey Vals quartzite in narrow strips of varying width laid over a large area paint a lively picture, which is reminiscent of the large squares of Italy in character and dimension. The material choice is evidence of the many different functions the square fulfils, between representation, everyday city life and event venue. This natural stone can withstand the extreme stresses put upon it by various events – from the heat of fire to circus elephant dung. During the summer months it remains pleasantly cool. When wet its subtle shading steps into the fore as magnificent detailing.
The background is made up of the old town façades and the large trees of the Bellevue; right on the square the opera house stands prominently, but not dominatingly, in its new context. Two pavilions and several tree-covered areas are scattered across the stone parquet in light-footed effortlessness. Between them there is a generous emptiness – for people strolling, skating, for townsfolk and events, from the Sechseläuten to the annual circus.
Client: Tiefbauamt Stadt Zürich
Project competition, 3 rounds: 1st prize, 2000–2001
Design plan: 2002
Feasibility study: 2004
Project planning: 2007-2010
Area: 14’400 m²
Architects: Zach+Zünd Architekten GmbH, Zurich
Awards: Gute Bauten Stadt Zürich 2016
Deutscher Natursteinpreis 2015
Flâneur d‘Or 2014, Distinction
Hochparterre Die Besten 2014
Photograph: Manuel Bauer