Zurich, one of the world’s most exciting cities in terms of architecture, has been busy at work and new exciting buildings, squares and public parks have bloomed across the city. Despite its new concrete additions, Zurich remains a historical nucleus and medieval houses, narrow lanes and guild and town halls still coexist with respect and grace within its present built form.
The reality is the historical Roman town of Zurich – good old Turicum – is looking prettier than ever.
If you are tremendously looking forward to a little architectural exploration, Swiss cheese and white wine, Zürich has plenty of those to offer.
The following is a list of buildings with which Zurich identifies itself. Old and new. Tall and short. Interior and exterior. But all beautifully iconic.
1. Historical churches: Grossmünster Church, Fraumünster Church, Church St. Peter
The Old Town of Zürich has seen exciting – and turbulent – bits of history. If the walls could speak… Since its foundation by the Romans about 2,000 years ago, to later becoming Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich has fought wars, educated some well-known poets and produced some of the best Swiss foods (to name a few). All these life can be felt in the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, where still after almost 1,000 years, Grossmünster Church (c1220), Fraumünster Church (c1250) and Church St. Peter (c1000) bow to each other in respect. Read more here.
Location: Grossmünsterplatz, 8001 Zürich (Google)
2. Prime Tower
This iconic tower, synonym to Zurich, was the tallest structure in Switzerland until the Roche-Turm 2 tower was completed in Basel. The location of the Prime Tower and its two annexes, the Cubus and Diagonal buildings, is part of a formerly almost inaccessible industrial site that is gradually being converted into a business and residential district with associated services. Situated in the immediate vicinity of Hardbrücke railway station and 126 meters in height, Prime Tower is not only a distinctive feature of the neighbourhood, but also a landmark for the up-and coming district of Zurich West. Don’t miss the restaurant and bistro on the 35th-floor. Read more here.
Architect: Gigon / Guyer Architekten
Location: Hardstrasse 201, 8005 Zürich (Google)
3. Extension of the Swiss National Museum
The Swiss National Museum, a late 19th century beauty by Gustav Gull, was in need of additional space. A new wing adjoining the Platzspitz Park was added in 2016 to solve this problem. The new structure, a vast concrete monolith, will appeal to all Brutalist lovers. An effective intervention with its own modern character in my opinion. Christ & Gantenbein Architects, best known for their Kunstmuseum in Basel, have also a less known but equally superb structure in London: The stunning refurbishment of the Swiss Church. Read more here.
Architect: Christ & Gantenbein Architects
Location: Museumstrasse 2, 8001 Zürich (Google)
4. Stadelhofen Railway Station
Stadelhofen Railway Station was the first rapid-transit system to be built in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Railways commissioned the expansion of the already existing railway station on Stadelhofen Square. A then young Calatrava integrated a third track, a commercial arcade and, perhaps the best, a canopied promenade which is a beautiful continuous section. Other aspects of the complex such as bridges, stairs and elevators blissfully connect all parts of the project. Read more here.
Architect: Santiago Calatrava
Location: Stadelhoferstrasse 8, 8001 Zürich (Google)
5. MFO Park
Several awards now crown MFO Park, and experimental and always growing project to the north of Oerlikon railway station. Located on the former site of a locomotive factory named Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), the structure of the park reframes the original building footprint. The spacious metal hall is enveloped by sumptuously sprawling plants and open on three sides. Read more here.
Architect: Burckhardt + Partner AG and raderschallpartner ag
Location: MFO Park, 8050 Zürich (Google)
6. Schulhaus Leutschenbach
When Christian Kerez finished this primary school in Leutschenbach, he was making history. The learning facility offers a completely new dimension for learning. From the gym located on the top floor (instead of submerged under the earth) to the lack of hallways (all the classrooms open on to large recreational areas that can also be used for teaching activities), Kerez has reinvented the form and function of schools. Read more here.
Architect: Christian Kerez
Location: Saatlenfussweg 3, 8050 Zürich (Google)
7. Pavilion Le Corbusier
This colourful museum by the pioneer of Modernist architecture was his last project and the only one in glass and steel exclusively. Because he died before its competition, it was famous Jean Prouvé who built it finally. Pavilion Le Corbusier has reopened to the public after architects Silvio Schmed and Arthur Rüegg restored the art museum to its original state. The result? Amazing. Is as if time hadn’t passed at all. The four-storey structure was designed for Swiss gallery owner and interior designer Heidi Weber. Read more here.
Architect: Le Corbusier
Location: Höschgasse 8, 8008 Zürich (Google)
8. Law Library
While the exterior of the old building from Hermann Fietz (built in 1908) was untouched, the interior was transformed into an oval wonder of light and awesomeness. What is absolutely remarkable is how the structure (integrated as part of the shelves) blends with the old building to support the new addition of space. The result is as if the new parts were floating in the courtyard. Pay attention to the white beams, have you noticed them? Read more here.
Architect: Santiago Calatrava
Location: Rämistrasse 74, 8001 Zürich (Google)
9. Freitag Flagship Store
In 1993, Freitag started to make tarp-bags. An innovative recycling idea. In 2006 they decided to have their flagship store built from 17 rusty, recycled freight-containers, selected in person in Hamburg and brought to Zurich by rail. Stacked low enough not to violate the city’s restriction on high-rise, high enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. The way the elements are stacked is authentic, and only connecting elements from the shipping industry are used. This also means that dismantling the tower and leaving the site in its original state will be a straightforward process. Read more here.
Architect: spillmann.echsle architekten
Location: Geroldstrasse 17, 8005 Zürich (Google)
10. K.I.S.S. Apartment Building
Camenzind Evolution had a difficult task for this building: an intensive market research on potential customers. Their lifestyle, income class and needs is what shaped both form and function of this residential block. Three specific target groups were identified and a bold design (with very striking interiors too) was applied in each case, going beyond the functional aspect of the structure. The maisonette names were: Classic, Industrial and Funky. Read more here.
Architect: Camenzind Evolution
Location: Badenerstrasse 575, 8048 Zürich (Google)
11. Tanzhaus Zürich
Tanzhaus, meaning house of dance, has recently open its doors again with a brand new building designed by Spanish architecture firm Barozzi Veiga. The former Tanzhaus, also located on this site, was destroyed during a fire in 2012. The new building is not only a stunning piece of sculptural concrete, but also a key element in activating this area around the banks of the Limmat River. The café, with its exposed concrete walls and chic interior design, is open to the public. Read more here.
Architect: Barozzi Veiga
Location: Wasserwerkstrasse 127a, 8037 Zürich (Google)
12. B2 Boutique Hotel
Located in a most unassuming corner of Enge – where all the attention goes to the nearby Alfred Bluntschli’s church – the B2 Boutique Hotel is a most interesting building. The structure belonged to the old Hürlimann Brewery, which was founded in 1836 and stayed in the same family for five generations. In 2010 the building opened after heavy restoration by Althammer Hochuli Architects and nowadays it works as a hotel and thermal bath & spa. My favourite? Its stunning and HUGE library by Ushi Tamborriello has over 33,000 books. Read more here.
Architect: Althammer Hochuli Architects and Ushi Tamboriello (Wine library)
Location: Brandschenkestrasse 152, 8002 Zürich (Google)
Check these and other amazing buildings of Zürich on the map below or download the Free Architecture Guide of Zürich:
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We lived partly in Zürich for two years and thank you very much to remind us of the architectural highlights of this beautiful city. Nevertheless we like most being in the old town.
Thanks and cheers
The Fab Four of Cley
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
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Good morning Klausbernd! How was your experience living there? How did you find the energy compared to other cities?
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Good morning, dear Virginia,
well, first of all Zürich is decent and rich. In comparison to other cities (I moved from Montreal to Zürich) it is laid back and has its charme. Living in the Altstadt is a little bit like living in the country. A lot of places in Zürich have no city feeling. It’s easy living there as a foreigner as long as you stay a tourist. And Zürich is near to the great mountains and has a beautiful lake I sailed quite often with a little sailing dhingy. I had a great time in Zürich.