Last week World-Architects held a company retreat in Zürich, pulling in our various editors for a few days of brainstorming, presentations, and a tour around the largest of Swiss cities; here we highlight some of the places we found during the last.
Based on our excursions around the city during the retreat and over the weekend, below are a half-dozen recommendations for places to go in Zürich. As chance would have it, the selection falls into three pairs (two buildings, two shops, and two museums) each with one famous and one lesser known place – all worth seeing in person.
Pavillon Le Corbusier
(aka Heidi Weber - Centre Le Corbusier)
Le Corbusier, 1967
Höschgasse 8, 8008 Zürich
In 1960 art collector Heidi Weber hired Le Corbusier to design a small museum on the shore of Lake Zürich. The famous architect's only steel-and-glass building turned out to be his last; it was completed in 1967, two years after his death. The city had given the land to Heidi Weber in 1964 for a 50-year period, so in 2014 the building passed to the city after it purchased the building from Weber. The relationship between Weber and the city has been a strained one, most recently evidenced in a suit she has filed for defamation. Controversies aside, it is one of the most famous modern buildings in Zürich and one that people should visit as soon as possible for two reasons: to see the great for now or forever – Swiss Pavilions exhibition (until 23 July); and because the museum will close for eighteen months come October for some much-needed restoration work.
Hammam and Apartments in Patumbah Park
Miller & Maranta, 2013
Mühlebachstrasse 157-159, 8008 Zürich
Just a few blocks east of the Heidi Weber Museum is Patumbah Park, which is anchored by the 19th century Villa Patumbah. In 2013 a restoration of the villa was completed, which coincided with the completion of two apartment buildings – parallel buildings on the eastern and western edges of the public park – designed by Miller & Maranta for Lis Mijnssen. The building on the west, on Mühlebachstrasse, also includes Hammam Basar, a modern spa modeled on Arab steam baths. This component adds a public aspect to the private residential development, including a cafe behind the moucharabieh, the traditional lattice windows reinterpreted by architects Quintus Miller and Paola Maranta.
Neumarkt 17, 8001 Zürich
The labyrinthine spaces of this designer furniture store in Zürich's Altstadt ("Old Town") have to be seen to be believed – or understood. Spread across four floors in three connected buildings, the shop also includes an extension with steel floors suspended by iron chains over a basin of water. Needless to say, it is easy to spend hours navigating the spaces and browsing the furniture. Designed by architect Fritz Schwarz, neumarkt 17 opened in September 1964, but the design's mix of Mediterranean spaces (below) and rough concrete and steel surfaces (above) make it a timeless modern masterpiece.
Never Stop Reading
Spiegelgasse 18 / Untere Zäune, 8001 Zürich
Just a two-minute walk from neumarkt 17 is one of the Old Town's newest shops, which opened in April. Owned by the publishers Scheidegger & Spiess and Park Books, Never Stop Reading features a "broad range" (not limited to the publishers' own titles, in other words) of books on architecture, photography, art, and design, as well as some general-interest English books. The new bookstore fills a void following the closure of the nearby Orell Füssli Krauthammer, and it provides an alternative to the overpriced Hochparterre architecture bookstore near Langstrasse. Once a butcher shop – and a Russian bookstore in the interim – Never Stop Reading exposes the history of the building, most evidently in the reading corner at the back of the store (below-right photo).
Swiss National Museum
Christ & Gantenbein, 2016 (extension)
Museumstrasse 2, 8001 Zürich
Just over a year ago Emanuel Christ and Christoph Gantenbein completed their extension of the Landesmuseum Zürich (Swiss National Museum), the second phase of a three-phase project that also includes the renovation and refurbishment of the museum's 1898 "chateau" designed by Gustav Gull. As Jenny Keller described it at the time: "The main element informing the design is the meandering ‘bridge’ that connects the rear wings of the old building and makes ‘old’ and ‘new’ into a self-contained entity." Entering the museum from the park on the north (as in the photo above) rather than from the plaza facing the main train station makes this relationship paramount. Although the museum doesn't allow photographs inside the extension, you can take my word that the new galleries, as well as the renovated spaces in the old building, are skillfully done with many surprises to encounter.
MuDA - Museum of Digital Arts
Pfingstweid St 101, 8005 Zürich
At the other end of the spectrum from the huge – and hugely popular – Swiss National Museum is the tiny MuDA, located in a 400-sm storefront space in the Herdern Hochhaus, a landmarked tower in Zürich West. MuDA bills itself as "Europe's first physical and virtual museum dedicated to digital arts," and its current exhibition, on Gramazio Kohler, is the museum's first to focus on architects. Of course, Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler are not your typical architects, with their ongoing research and projects incorporating robots and other atypical means of production. Although only five sections in total, two of those are new pieces built specifically for the exhibition: a cable robot with vacuum that randomly sucks up and spits out sand (photo above) and a pair of robots that alternately hold a piece of foam suspended in the air solely through the use of sound waves (video is below, but seeing it in person is better). Gramazio Kohler is on display at MuDA until 16 July.