Church of St. Katharina, Zurich Affoltern

Kirche St. Katharina, Zürich Affoltern | Fischer Architekten AG Zürich

The complex is grouped around a protected courtyard with an almost Mediterranean quality that is set back from the noisy street and is reached by an impressive outdoor staircase. The building can be described as one of Eugen O. Fischer’s key works. For this church complex Fischer was awarded the city of Zurich prize for good buildings.

For a tight plot directly on the main traffic artery through Zurich Affoltern the competition in 1967 called for a church complex with an integrated community centre, youth club and presbytery. The white building, which exudes the strength of a fortress while at the same time communicating a cheerful feeling, placed a modernist signal in a district that was gradually acquiring an urban quality. It was the first Catholic church to be granted the “Award for good buildings of the city of Zurich”.

With its closed exterior the church of St. Katharina, despite its partly plastered façade, represents a concrete Brutalism influenced by Le Corbusier. The spatial organisation with the protected courtyard placed away from the street and the impressive outdoor staircase recalls Alvar Aalto’s famous town hall in Säynätsalo.

The centralised floor plan of the church – a honeycomb form that mediates between a transverse oval and a rectangle – is integrated in the orthogonal complex. The space for religious services acquires its sacred atmosphere through the carefully considered handling of light. Through the gap between the walls and the ceiling slab, which is connected to the walls only by concrete beams, daylight flows into the slightly downward sloping church space from which the altar area rises like a stage.

Wehntalerstrasse 451, 8046 Zurich, Switzerland
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Task New Roman Catholic church
Job type Competition
Mention 2nd prize competition (recommended for implementation by the jury), Award for good buildings of the city of Zurich
Deliverables Project, tender, implementation project, construction management
Time period 1967–1972
Challenge Public building in an established residential district, formation of a courtyard