The new Zurich University of the Arts has been built in the former Toni yogurt factory in Zürich West, an area rapidly being transformed from industrial to post-industrial uses. Thirty metres above ground, the conditions of the project were not easy: the enormous rooftops were to be converted into accessible, green oasis for intensive use by the students. An endless list of technical constraints accompanied the project. It had to be built in no time and cost very little.
The design solution precisely uses these limitations to create a specific design language. All vegetation, from trees to creepers, were pre-cultivated in wooden crates at a local nursery creating a kind of “Take-away or Ready to Go” landscape. For sustainability reasons the hard surfaces must be permeable. Pre-fab concrete elements similar to those found in industrial catalogues answer to this need.
It is a paradoxical garden: built in no time and ready for use on the final day of construction, it hasn’t, unlike most parks, gone through a long development phase – its primary principle is not growth, but decay. The joke of the project is a comment on our needs and desires for urban nature produced under highly artificial conditions. On opening day of the prize-crowned project by EM2N Architects, the garden began its natural, poetic and very beautiful process of decay. The wooden crates fall apart as the plants and trees grow. It is a choreographed natural ruin usually only found in literature and theory. Here, the much-cited processuality of landscape architecture has been reversed: the process begins at the apparent end – with decay.
Location: Pfingstweidstrasse 94, 8005 Zurich, Switzerland
Project Phases: Competition 2006, 1st Prize; Construction 2014
Client: Allreal Generalunternehmung AG, Zurich
Landscape Architect: Studio Vulkan Landschaftsarchitektur, Zürich
Architect: EM2N, Zurich