It’s midnight in Vals – a quintessential Swiss mountain village – and you’re floating in a warm pool, looking up at the night sky, in a silent night-time bathing experience. The architect, Peter Zumthor, is renowned for designing sensorial experiences and I think this could be what heaven feels like and even if Bradley Kerr finished yesterday’s post with this same moment, it deserves covering again. We return to the baths at 7am for one last chance to grasp this ultimate moment.
The running group joke, #itsalldownhillfromhere feels more apt than ever as we leave Vals and drive back to Zurich.
The Kunsthaus Zurich Extension by David Chipperfield is easy to appreciate. Unlike a few public buildings we’ve seen, it’s not a gimmick or a landmark, but instead a highly resolved civic place. The refined concrete, copper and marble forms are chosen for their relationship to the older museum building, local availability and partially recycled material (concrete). Technically refined approaches to acoustics and natural light alongside geothermal heating and cooling in the heavy mass walls (no air conditioning) make the galleries effortlessly pleasant and offer more sustainable preservation and viewing methods. The entry foyer is designed as a public space and stays open longer than the museum as a passageway, which is a nice idea – even if the building still screams “formal institution” would possibly seem alienating to some parts of the community. You get the sense that this building could comfortably sit in its place in the city for hundreds of years, which I think is an important criteria for such an expensive and material heavy investment.
We pause for lunch at MFO Park; imagine a post-apocalyptic industrial steel building frame remnant that’s been taken over by greenery. We have lunch here and it’s fantastic; four storeys of garden and platforms that make you feel like a child in a treehouse again.
Next we visit the Hunziker Areal housing cooperative which consists of 13 apartment blocks, totalling 400 units. Designed by five different architecture firms and built by one contractor. We’re lucky to have a tour with Thomas Friberg and Martin Gutenkast from Pool Architekten even though it’s a public holiday.
The whole thing is an experiment in affordable housing, allowing the project team to challenge local planning rules. There are only 100 car spaces, given to visitors and special concessions. One apartment pattern stacks light voids to efficiently get natural light into the deep spaces. The apartments don’t have balconies and one that we visit has a communal roof space while another carves out a communal terrace garden and winter-garden (like a sun room).
Another apartment experiments with single mass integrated-insulation concrete (a product I don’t think we have in Australia) while another tests the economics of mass timber. A rule book for the area creates consistent elements among the experimentation such as defining the ground area for commercial tenancies in a different visual format.
People pay a fee to join the cooperatives and if they ever leave they get that money back. The system is so successful that Thomas Friberg estimates 25% of housing in Switzerland is under the cooperative model and even a lot of the social housing is simply subsidised cooperative housing. Our group is deeply fascinated by this system.
It’s the first place we’ve seen where kids are really active in the architecture. A splash pool is heartily used in the ground commons, and a resident who excitedly and generously invited us to see her apartment explains that the thing she loves most of that her kids have so many friends living in the same area.
Our final stop is the Le Corbusier Pavillion. It’s jarring and none of us like it aesthetically. But this isn’t the point; this is his last work and it culminates many of the ideas and thinking behind a seminal figure who was obsessed with the future of human living and finding rationale behind how it should be done. From his pursuit of proportional philosophy (the modular man) to a fascination with industrial innovation (nautical doors, automobile style windows and colour coding of mechanical systems) it’s all on display in this “architecture for architecture’s sake”.
Between our midnight bath and tomorrow’s 4am start – today’s blog signs off here… no great summarzing words of wisdom, just a very full “architecture cup”.
– Sarah Lebner, Cooee Architecture
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Dulux Study Tour participants are invited to share their experiences in blog and editorial content as part of the program. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Australian Institute of Architects. The Institute encourages a space for conversation and continued dialogue so there can be meaningful change and progress across the built environment and our wider community.
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Readers are advised that the opinions expressed in articles and editorial content are those of their authors, not the Australian Institute of Architects. Similarly the Institute acknowledges that there needs to be a space for conversation and continued dialogue so there can be meaningful change and progress.