Portal UZH, Zurich
Working partnership with David Chipperfield Architects

Wettbewerb Portal UZH, Universität Zürich, Irchel, Fischer Architekten AG

The open, inviting, and transparent architecture of the proposed new building for the University of Zurich exploits the views of the landscape and helps eliminate barriers between indoor and outdoor space or between different functions. The reduction and simplicity of the architecture and the routes through the building make it easy to find one’s way around, while the flexible and variable spaces respond to the needs of modern sciences and encourage exchange between different disciplines.

This new building for the University of Zurich is designed for a site in the northwest of Irchel Campus. Together with the State Archive it will form a starting point for the construction of the complex. Embedded in Irchel Park, which is a protected recreation space, the University of Zurich portal has an important function both for members of the university and for the general public.

The competition entry by Chipperfield Architects and Fischer Architekten sees the University of Zurich as an open, forward-looking research facility. A triad of reception building, laboratory building and promenade meshes nature and architecture and preserves and enhances the surrounding terrain, an aim of the original planners of the park that has acquired even greater importance in the context of climate change. The concept respects the setting in that the most important public areas, foyers and seminar rooms are laid out above ground level and are directly connected to the park. All the spaces for building services and logistics lie beneath the topography. This strategy allows the natural layout of the terrain to be preserved.

The two parts of the building, which are separated from each other above ground level, are presented as compact volumes. The ground floors exude openness, both spatially and as a gesture. In the reception building two storeys that house auditoriums and seminar rooms surrounded by continuous foyers and tall galleries are stacked above the ground floor. The fourth and fifth floors house the researchers’ offices, which are laid out around a two-storey roof garden. In the neighbouring laboratory building the transparently organised cafeteria extends across the entire ground floor, it has a generously dimensioned, east-facing outdoor area and exploits the sloping terrain to offer views of the water and the woods.

The architecture of the proposed new buildings refers to the existing buildings designed by Max Ziegler in the 1970s and the striking silhouette ensures an impact that extends far beyond the campus itself. Wood, steel and recycling concrete are used in differentiated ways to underline the architectural-spatial and structural-constructional significance of the individual elements of the building. The consistent separation of loadbearing structure, building envelope and building services allows the building to be dismantled easily at some later date and recycled, as called for by the circular economy.

Winterthurerstrasse, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland
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Task New research and teaching building on Irchel Campus
Job type Competition after prequalification (working partnership with David Chipperfield Architects)
Time period 2022–2023
Challenge Embedding the new buildings in a campus with several listed buildings, developing the existing complex further