Winterthur Social Insurance Court

Wettbewerb Sozialversicherungsgericht Winterthur | Fischer Architekten AG Zürich

The competition entry for a new building for Winterthur Social Insurance Court transforms historical typologies to reflect a modern approach to jurisprudence. In a figurative sense the compact building volume with its shimmering glass facade reflects a transparent, democratic justice system as an image of society and the state.

The site for the new building for Winterthur Social Insurance Court is to the north of the old town in a villa district with luxuriant planting. The basic urban design concept envisages a compact building that stands alone, like the villas in the parks, positioned at the rear edge of the project perimeter. This establishes an appropriate distance between the seven-storey volume and the residential buildings, while a garden at the rear creates an extensive green space. The way in which the elegant new building with its glazed, white shimmering skin reflects its setting in accordance with the quality of the light allows it to become a part of the new park.

The building’s basic structure is based on axial symmetry, which is subtly relaxed and reformed by means of delicate, asymmetrical interruptions. The main entrance in the middle leads through the entrance space into a centrally positioned foyer. A layer of spaces for the lawyers on either side of the foyer separates it from the two courtrooms that are placed on the long side facades. In these rooms full-height windows provide daylight and establish a connection between inside and outside, while two rows of free-standing columns ground the spaces and give them a simple, appropriate dignity.

On the upper floors the offices are organised around two stacked, two-storey spatial volumes. Resembling elegant vases, they are lit by daylight from above that enters through a glass block ceiling and falls as far as the foyer at the bottom. Narrowing this space on the third and sixth floors allows the human dimension to be preserved, despite its size. The parapets to the ribbon windows are constructed as innovative, twin-layer photovoltaic facades which, together with the looping air distribution system on the internal side of the facade, form compact building services circuits. The flat timber ceiling slabs, which together with the timber columns form the structure, function as a modern, space-shaping element.

Lindstrasse, 8400 Winterthur, Switzerland
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Task New building for Winterthur Social Insurance Court
Job type Competition, open procedure
Time period 2020–2021
Challenge Stringent demands as regards integration in the urban setting, court procedures, functionality, and sustainability