Schauspielhaus Zürich, Cultural Centre, Theatre Workshops and Museum
Zurich, Switzerland
Competition 1996

The starting point is a narrow block occupied by an old, protected boat building shed. This area is influenced by many different uses with partially common but diverse interests. For us, this tightly shared space of so many uses and users is a great advantage for creating an interesting building. It should at the same time be a living place that grows whilst changing this part of Zurich, which owes its identity to industrial architecture and in which the linearity and repetition of industrial work is reflected.

The boat building shed is integrated into the project, the great new roof embraces the present boat shed roof; the space between the roofs is used as a service area for ventilation, soundproofing, darkening and sign writing.

The roof has an iconographic significance that tends to conceal and reveal heterogeneous pieces, it is only a classical gable roof from a distance. On approach, one perceives a photographic image over the great concrete roofing and the part of the wall that hangs down. It is a life-size display of the Pfauentheater proscenium arch and tells us that the stage is reproduced in a sculptural form inside the building. A theatrical piece like a stage, or a piece of architecture like a neo-classical Grisaille painting? A window onto the theatre or a window onto the world? The architecture for the new cultural centre is not only a symbol - it is in itself a part of the complex, varied urban design of the post-industrial city that is emerging here.

The warehouse conservation only makes sense when its space remains as unchanged and open as possible, with the result that the interior of the boat shed, where the museum, restaurant, foyer and alternative theatre are housed, can only function as a large public, urban precinct. We consciously juxtaposed the aperture and generosity of this public space against the densely packed floors of the work centers. This is where all of the private spaces are set - the offices, studios, storerooms and rehearsal rooms. They are grouped around the assembly rooms, which are cut out like a void in the building. This second empty space works as an orientation point, like the boat shed, or like a sort of meeting point in the work center.

The large gable roof shelters all users under its eaves, even covering part of the boat building shed. It conceals a section of its old brick facade but reveals a visible part, which will become the focal point of a new, reinforced perception; the boat shed architecture will be displayed to the passerby like an object d’art belonging to the new art museum.
Herzog & de Meuron 1997


Herzog & de Meuron Team:
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Harry Gugger, Christine Binswanger
Project Team: Andrea Bernhard, Stephan Derendinger, Robert Hösl, Hans-Ulrich Matter,
Lukas Huggenberger, Rémy Voisard


Neue Schauspiel AG, Zürich

Building Data:
Gross Floor Area: 24,000sqm


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