The buildings of the Kunsthaus Zurich on the heavily trafficked Heimplatz and cater-cornered from the theater developed over a number of construction phases: the main building was built in 1910 based on the moderate classicist design of Karl Moser, the main building’s front annex facing the square was designed by the brothers Pfister and built in 1958, while rear annex was built in 1976 according to the designs of Erwin Müller. In 2008, plans for another annex on the facing Heimplatz across two lanes of traffic developed. The designated hillside site is part of the former rampart and sits just below the Zurich’s City Crown with the institutions of higher education and the Old Cantonal School. The two gym halls currently on the plot have been released for demolition.
The proposed open complex in the style of a classic Renaissance villa aims to integrate the urban space and establish an evident relationship between the separate museum buildings that are connected underground.
The building consists of a cuboid volume, which extends up the hillside, and a plinth, largely subterraneous, which forms the foundation for an extensive, raised patio. The short face of the cuboid addresses the Heimplatz where it defines a striking gateway to the square with the Pfister building as its counterpart. The new building’s entrance coincides with the main entrance of the Moser building across from it. Immediately inside the entrance, a sweeping flight of broad stairs facing the square leads visitors to the terrace. This not only creates a space for temporary open-air museum installations, it also carves out a new public space within the bustling traffic, effectively defining a foyer for the cultural buildings that make up the Heimplatz as well as for the future sites of higher learning on the hillside.
The annex must meet numerous demands: it must house the museum’s collection of nineteenth century, classical modernist, and international post-1960s artworks, serves as the new home for the E.G. Bührle collection, and provide space for special exhibitions with new media artworks.
The space aims to enable new exhibition concept with rooms of varying sizes and open relationships. Both the entrance hall and the forecourt can function as exhibition space and thereby give the museum visitor an initial, memorable artistic encounter. The patio level includes a foyer, an events hall, and a café. The next floor above the patio, the ‘piano nobile,’ contains the gallery space for the Bührle collection and the works of classical modernism. The enfilade of rooms, some with outside views, creates a continuous experience. The parquet flooring, wooden baseboards, and opaque glass ceiling of these rooms speak to the traditional type of gallery space. However, their space is slightly augmented by comparison to the rooms of historical collections.
The desire for natural lighting was an essential influence on the arrangement and design of the rooms. North facing shed roofs provide lighting. The glass ceilings of the rooms in the plinth hide skylights that rise 2.5m above the patio surface above. The patio itself is made up of a lose array of individual garden courtyards that offer new opportunities of installing exhibitions or for presenting single works. Here, the ‘open form’ concept continues to shape the construction: the urban and the artistic space come together in a symbiotic relationship and establish a superior communal site that serves manifold purposes.
in collaboration with Peter Suter
Competition: Special commendation, 2008
Client: Amt für Hochbauten Zurich
Location: Heimplatz, Zurich, Switzerland
Gross Floor Area (GFA): 12.750 m²
Use / Function: entrance hall, exhibition space (ground floor), auditoriums and audience café (upper floor), new galleries of the collection EG Buehrle and the collection of the 19th century (piano nobile)
Structural Engineer: Ernst Basler + Partner
Mechanical Engineer: Ernst Basler + Partner
Landscape Architect: Rotzler Krebs Partner