Old chemistry buildings ETH Zentrum, Zurich

Chemiealtbauten ETH-Zentrum, Zürich, Fischer Architekten AG Zürich

After the Chemistry Department moved out, it was planned to use the striking old chemistry buildings of the ETH Zurich as offices. This competition entry, which was awarded first prize, gives these important buildings back their original character. Further storeys added on top increase the teaching space capacity.

The old chemistry buildings in Zurich’s university district are of high architectural quality and offer an important testimony to the history of the ETH. Various building phases erected by three generations of architecture professors, Bluntschli/Lasius 1884–1886, Salvisberg 1937 and Hess 1956, form a single whole.

The move of the Chemistry Department to the Hönggerberg Campus, offered an opportunity to convert the teaching building with its laboratories and lecture theatres into an office block. The rooms were be freed from provisional adaptations made in recent times and restored to their original character. In addition, the teaching facilities were to be extended.

The focus was on clarifying the spatial structure and making it more precise, working in intensive collaboration with the cantonal conservation authority. A new central element of the complex is the two-storey addition on the roof that contains lecture halls, seminar rooms and a cafeteria. A second important intervention was made in the forecourt on Universitätsstrasse, which was regarded as the calling card of the old chemistry buildings. Existing shacks were removed, and the space was given a contemporary design. Today the forecourt serves as an address and as the entrance area for various public functions.

Universitätstrasse 6, 8006 Zurich, Switzerland
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Task Conversion and renovation
Job type Competition after prequalification
Mention 1st prize
Deliverables Project, tender, implementation project, construction management, general planning
Time period 1997–2001
Challenge Conservation requirements