LILA 2021 Ex-Aequo Winner in Public Landscapes

The project is a poetic response to a palimpsest of natural and human-driven processes that shaped the site. One physical corpus was made by two different forces. The narrative states that the general perception of the artificial hill and the surrounding forest is a natural environment. They call it pseudo-nature.
Abstractly, it works because of the contrast between open and closed spaces, namely, an artificial forest with a forest ring and a clearing. The top of the hill is a small circular viewing platform made of polished concrete which references the geological structure of the moraine below the top of the hill. The viewing disc features fog-jets that produce an artificial cloud which acts as a poetic reference to flying, to being in the sky, to touching the sky. Entering the artificial cloud acts as a reference to moving through clouds when travelling by plane.
Beside the forest ring, the remaining forest area appears almost untouched, as it is under a nature conservation plan. Hence, maintenance is used as means of design. The project exposes many contradictions in our understanding of what is natural and what is artificial. It also provides a series of poetic ambiences and playful experiences on the hilltop.

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The project represents a new form of global yet local urban nature and landscape, the challenge being to observe strict ecological and forestry laws, maintaining high biodiversity while creating a park for intensive use by thousands of visitors a day. The design looks to create a win-win situation out of what at first glance appears to be contradictory demands of nature, ecological protection, recreation, and forestry.

A hill at the front door of the Zurich Airport opened in 2020 as a new park, encircled by the new Megastructure “The Circle”, by Japanese Architect Rikon Yamamoto. The landscape is a semi-natural haven of tranquility surrounded by dynamic infrastructure. It consists of historical layers of natural, artificial and artificially placed natural transformations. On top of the original archaic glacier moraine the excavation of the new 1960’s highway to the airport was tossed in an unshapely manner, creating a strange, abstract landscape sculpture. As ecological compensation for the lost land of the highway, forests, meadows and wetlands were artificially planted and placed under natural protection. Today the Zurich Airport is transforming into a commercial hub of international standing, a typical global phenomenon, while its suburban surroundings are rapidly densifying.

Using existing ecological cartography to structure the park, the design transforms the history of the place into a narrative playing upon its four vertical layers: archaic glacier moraine, planted forests, artificial topography and sky. Two central interventions structure the subtle redesign of the park: a 200 m diameter tree ring encircles the top of the moraine hill giving the geological formation an iconic presence. Crowning the abstract topographic landscape sculpture of the glacier moraine is the Sky Platform, with its fog and reflecting water film which turn the sky itself into a physically tangible place. Movement through the park is structured by two paths, the Woodland Loop and the Sky Loop. A series of woodland interventions, the Woodland Pavilion, The Fire Ring, Yoga Mats and Wildwood Plaza, offer immersive forest experiences.

The site and social spaces are choreographed via a series of interventions: the Woodland Pavilion, Fire Ring, Yoga Mats, Sky Gazing Chair and a new legally created woodland typology the “Open Woodland”.

Working together with a team of ecological and woodland experts the biodiversity of wetlands, fields and forests was guaranteed and increased.

The Sky Platform, 30m in diameter, creates an visually ephemeral social magnet at the top of the hill. In a choreography of water movement, the surface transforms from fog to a reflective water film, making the sky into a spatially tangible place.

Project Data

Landscape Architecture: Studio Vulkan with Robin Winogrond Landscape Architecture. Urban Design.

Collaborators: OePlan GmbH, Altstätten (nature conservation); Bausatz GmbH, Zurich (forest); René Bertiller, Winterthur (open forest); Anders Busse Nielsen, Copenhagen (forest); Ferrari Gartmann AG, Chur (civil engineers); PreIsig AG, Zurich (civil engineers); Mosimann & Partner AG, Zurich (electrical engineers); JML, Barcelona (water technology); TT Licht Zurich (lighting designers), INCHfurniture
Project location: Flughafen Zürich, 8302 Kloten, Switzerland
Competition: 2016 1st Prize
Design: 2017-2019
Realisation: 2019-2020
Manufacturer of urban equipment: INCHfurniture
Photography: © Daniela Valentini, Robin Winogrond

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