The FORUM UZH with its terraces and central plaza reinforces and enhances the urban presence of the University of Zurich. With the new education and research center open to the public, the city extends into the University.
The university quarter impressively "crowns" the old town of Zurich and testifies to the importance attached to knowledge and culture in the 19th century, when this urban idea was initially introduced. Historicizing, classicist public buildings are lined up along Rämistrasse, where the old city walls once stood. Stand-alone buildings are set back from the street and respond to the topography with below-ground plinths and terraces. Spacious central halls, like the Lichthof in the main university building, foster the identity of the respective institutions from within. The new building for the University of Zurich is a contemporary embodiment of these urban and interior typologies: below-ground plinth, stand-alone building, and Forum.
The topographical plinth is primarily for teaching. Terraces built into the slope are stepped around a central hall – the Forum. The plateaus are places where students and the public can congregate; they access lecture halls, classrooms, a café, as well as shops, gyms and other sports facilities. There is a flowing transition between inside and outside. The below-ground plinth interacts with the surrounding urban spaces – entrances on all sides and facilities open to the public seamlessly link the education and research center with the neighborhood.
The unifying Forum extends across five stories from the plinth up into the building and continues outdoors as a garden, hosting a bit of forest in the midst of the university.
The stand-alone building hovers above the plinth and is set back from the street far enough to allow for a central plaza in the university quarter: the Gloriaterrasse. Planted with large trees, the sunny plaza is an extension of Gloriapark, while the stand-alone building is incorporated into the chain of large-scale, institutional buildings along Rämistrasse. The faculties of law, economics and modern languages are accommodated in close proximity on the top four floors of the building, where they are arranged around two inner courtyards. An even grid of columns, an efficient floorplan and ample daylight allow for flexible use of this simple volume with its diverse learning environments and working worlds. The two lower floors of the trapezoid building accommodate the library which adjoins the Forum and is accessed via sweeping, open staircases. Along the main façade, the view from the reading room, which is two stories high in part, is directed across the Gloriaterrasse to the main building opposite.
Cantilevered floors and brise-soleils of varying sizes structure the façade and lend it spatial depth. Depending on one’s vantage point, the building may appear weighty, as if it were of solid stone, or transparent and light. The play of horizontal and vertical lines and the curved motif of the brise-soleils enter into a dialogue with the historicizing Palazzo architecture of the neighboring institutions.