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.
The site and its conditions
The park’s highly artificial site is a pseudo-natural haven of calm surrounded by dynamic infrastructure such as the airport and motorway. Like a wedding cake, the modest hill is made up of historical layers of natural and artificial landscapes. On the original glacial moraine, the excavated material from the motorway was dumped on it in a shapeless manner in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the hill is artificially landscaped with forest, meadows and wetlands and placed under nature conservation. Now Zurich Airport, like the city itself, is growing into an international commercial location. The challenge is to transform this whimsical site into an intensively usable park in agreement with the strict nature and forest protection laws.
From this starting point, Studio Vulkan understands the Butzenbüel as a landscape sculpture that has developed on a large scale from the conditions of the site. In this sense, the Butzenbüel is not simply the front garden of the Circle, but should be given an iconographic autonomy that can react precisely to the requirements of the Circle and of forest and nature conservation. In the area of tension between landing strips and motorways, airport buildings and the Circle complex, the Butzenbüel is to establish itself as a place for reflection and lingering.
Based on the analysis of the development history, large-scale design elements are used. The material of this staging is found on site: the gravel of the moraine becomes visible in path and wall materials, we understand the forest as a designed space that is in constant development, contrasting panoramas, of e.g. a reed area in front of a 50 m long advertising board, collide and demand an examination of our imagination with contemporary understanding of nature, city and recreation place.
The park needs a simple narrative to be understood by the international audience. Two strong, easy-to-experience spatial experiences are at the forefront of this:
1. the forest clearing
In the tradition of the large scale and the formal reshaping of the existing structure, the forest closes with a large ring of trees to form a geometric clearing and creates a space with great symbolic power that rests in itself. In its scale, it is able to enter into dialogue with its surroundings and turns the hill into a landscape icon. The clearing becomes an arena in the sky.
2 The hill and the plateau
Our design stages the mountain and the plateau and places the vertical layering of the hill in the foreground. At the bottom is the archaic Swiss glacial moraine, with Swiss forest on top. Then follows the artificial, abstract, topographical landscape sculpture. At the top, the new sky platform creates a plateau that places the elusive sky in the centre. On a minimally lowered surface, a film of water and fog jets thematise and materialise the sky. From moment to moment, the changing of natural light and wind can be experienced. The abstract horizontal disc is monolithic in polished concrete, an abstraction of the gravelly moraine.
Nature and forest conservation as parts of the staging
A core question of the new park aims at the compatibility of recreation, forest and nature conservation. Studio Vulkan’s design answers this question by making forest and nature conservation a central element of the design and staging it as an experiential value.
Centrally, the ecological conditions of the site are innovatively interwoven with the fulfilment of the spatial and atmospheric functions of a park.
In order to bring out the power of the forest ring, its present unspecific character must be transformed into a clearly perceptible space. The design tool for this is called maintenance. The ability of the vegetation to react to interventions is creatively used in this project to create legible and tangible vegetative space of different character.
With a subtle redesign of the artificial topography created five decades ago, The Park stages the juxtaposition and overlapping of emptiness next to abundance, nature next to traffic, calm next to dynamics. It thus creates a recreational space that can be used for many needs, while at the same time taking the growing concern for forests and nature seriously.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape (architects and landscape architects): : 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
Design year: 2016 – 2020
Year Built: 2017-2021
Manufacturer of urban equipment: INCHfurniture
Field of tension between landing strips, motorways, Circle, forest and nature conservation