The aim of the conversion of the large former Toni milk processing building into a location for education, culture and housing was to formulate a concept for a building that is almost the size of an entire urban block. Our design suggested dealing with the size of the project by means of a kind of internal urbanism. The existing system of ramps was reinterpreted as a vertical boulevard and became the building’s main circulation system. As a counterpart to this we placed a large entrance hall, conceived as a public space, at the intersection of the high-rise and the lower parts of the building. An internal spatial figure is created that is connected by a series of halls, squares, voids and cascading staircases. It helps establish identity and places the many different functions like the buildings in a city, functioning as a kind of spatial catalyst that makes internal exchange possible. In addition to the urban planning challenges, many different questions were also posed at an architectural level: for instance how to deal in design terms with the extremely divergent scales and with the large number of very specific functions, or what overall atmospheric mood is most appropriate for such an extremely dense complex. In this regard the existing industrial building offered productive resistance and served us as a constant sparring partner. To create diversity and variety the architecture works with various degrees of refinement at different places: generally raw, here and there more refined, sometimes over-defined, mostly under-defined. A wide range of extremely different spaces is created, extending from functional public halls and circulation spaces to intimate rehearsal cabinets: the building as city, the city as building.
The much-cited process-oriented nature of landscape architecture has been reversed: the process begins at the apparent end – with decay.
Density, urbanity and exciting intensity – 30 metres above ground in Zurich West. On the roof garden of the new University of the Arts on the site of the former Toni factory, the outdoor space creates a green oasis for students in an area where there has been a surge of new high-rises, technical buildings, chimneys, atriums and concert halls. Here, plants grow in wooden boxes stacked to create a pixel-like rugged landscape. 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. Yet the lush garden is far from finished – its primary principle is not growth, but decay.
A 2,600 m2 urban world with the appearance and radical individuality of a small private garden. The stacked boxes were precultivated over two years with a colourful mix of plants suitable for the environment, including perennials, herbs and small shrubs such as willow. Eventually, the boxes will decay, the plant species will mix and the pixelated landscape will grow into soft mounds, forming the roof’s base soil layer that will enable plant growth. This specific system and strong identity is the result of a careful study of the location and the envisaged intense level of use from the beginning, combined with the availability of water on the roof, short construction period and architectural limits on structural height. As a symbiosis of nature and artificiality, the rugged world of stacked pixels reflects the place and the environment. Here, the much-cited processuality of landscape architecture has been reversed: the process begins at the apparent end – with decay.