What kind of a place will this become?
What was once a beautiful area in the Hottinger neighborhood with villas and grand buildings is now overused, impassable; it has lost its charm. Preserving the various historical buildings makes sense if the overall layout is corrected, if green spaces are restored, and if a new garden is created. This can succeed if the new Center for Dentistry (ZZM) integrates itself without dominating the site, thanks to a concept that keeps the size of the volumes reasonable.
Our proposal places the new ZZM in the center of the arrangement of old and new buildings. Its polygonal form responds to the geometrical layout of the historical buildings, as if it had always been this way. Each of these buildings regains its autonomy, its beauty. This is true for the new ZZM as well as for all protected, and even non-protected buildings. Some of them can remain - they are needed in a city that is growing and displacing a large amount of old building stock in the process.
Urbanity and quality of life come from a mixture of uses. If people also live here, the site will be enlivened day and night; and it will connect better with its surroundings than if it were again to serve only a single institutional use. The project can become a model case for the combination of densification, functionality and ecology with simultaneous consideration towards the specific, historical quality of a site.
A new clinic for the encounter between doctor and patient
The central, pentagonal building is the heart of the ZZM. Its shape radiates onto the existing buildings and at the same time integrates them. The main volume of the building consists of five floors, topped with two smaller sized attic levels, allowing it to blend in well with its surroundings despite its considerable size. The wooden building includes 100 identically equipped treatment rooms. From each "chair" there is a view of nature, of the garden. The offices assigned to the clinics are located on the upper garden side with views towards colleagues’ offices in adjacent buildings. The structure of the building is flexible enough to allow treatment rooms and offices to be interchanged at will. As the clinics grow and shrink according to demand, the building layout can respond quickly and with little effort. In the center of the building a kaleidoscopic cavity opens upward and provides daylight to patient waiting rooms and conference zones.
The extraordinary seriality of the spatial program is reflected in the repetitive façade grid with identical, large windows. A deep horizontal board in front of the windows reduces the visibility into the rooms. Natural ventilation is provided by operable wooden flaps located above the glazing. Slightly flared metal frames guide fabric awnings for shading. This metal structure gives the building a fine elegance and, in summer, additional lightness and openness: the building breathes.
The clinic's infrastructure is seen as an integral part of the architecture. From the first basement level, the sterilization system supplies the treatment rooms directly and efficiently. Two-story areas and atriums on the facade provide daylight; at the same time, passers-by gain insight into this absolutely central function of the clinic.
The historic buildings and their sustainable re-use
The listed former Polyclinic of Otto Rudolf Salvisberg (1938) and the former Nurses Quarters of Richard von Muralt and Salvisberg (1933), along with a number of additional existing buildings, can be re-used for new functions.
The former Polyclinic accommodates a large portion of the teaching and administration program and a student learning center; the layout of the building provides separate entrance points and clear wayfinding. The historic, impressively steep auditorium is supplemented by a second lecture hall and seminar rooms. A new shared foyer is carefully integrated into the existing structure. The north facade, and with it the access to the historic lecture hall, will be restored to its original state. The former Nurses Quarters, the Spiegelhof, accommodates all the required areas of the office pool.
The overall urban design allows for the preservation of an even larger number of existing buildings than called for in the competition brief, while still creating a great deal of new green space. Using Spiegelhof as an example, our suggestions show the potential to extend the life of some of the buildings. There would be opportunities to keep even more of the existing structures, to use the land more intensively, and at the same time to achieve a healthy mix of working and living, of daytime and nighttime activities in the middle of this residential area.
Along the ‘alley’ behind the patient house, at the topographical edge between the upper and lower gardens, the laboratories are lined up on two floors. The decision to place the laboratories below the upper garden and to form this topographical edge, the alley, not only brings a generous amount of light to the labs, but has a key function in clarifying the overall plan. This solution allows the clinic building to be placed on a level plane in the garden as a clearly legible typology. The entire above-ground volume of the new ZZM is reduced in a way that brings it to scale with the neighborhood. Placing a large part of the ZZM program against the hill creates more open space, more green space for all. The researchers, the main users, will have their own attractive address, in direct vis-à-vis to the clinics.
A new garden for Hottingen
The planted identity of the neighborhood: an arboretum
City villas from the 19th and early 20th centuries with spacious, private gardens define the neighborhood character of Zurich Hottingen. The many small gardens, separated from one another at property lines, appear as a whole like a large park, in which trees stand in loose groups in meadow areas or join together to form framing groups of trees. These are mighty cedars, sequoias, lindens and copper beeches, a mature tree population characterized by a great diversity of species. This collection of trees appears as an arboretum - not in the scientific sense, but as a representative manifestation of an enlightened bourgeoisie, which was interested in integrating new plant species from different cultures into the privately created and cultivated gardens.
For the area of the new ZZM we create a solution that corresponds to this character in a contemporary way. Instead of mighty solitary trees, small groves of light tree species as well as large multi-stemmed shrubs complement the existing collection. Selective tree settlements and larger, open areas ensure the flow of cold / fresh air through the quarter and further towards the city center. The topography of the area in combination with the dismantling and new construction of buildings allows for the creation of a clearly readable two-part zoning. It serves as the basis for the redesign of the garden. In the upper area, surrounded by the ensemble of existing buildings, smaller, more intimate gardens are created, with paths that allow the public to pass through to the adjacent streets. The lower area becomes a generous open garden space in which the new dental clinic is embedded. It offers employees and residents areas for walking, picnicking or playing, in the spirit of a neighborhood park that contributes to Zurich's quality of life. The arboretum offers both the ZZM and the neighborhood attractive recreational areas and new connections - not as an isolated island in the urban fabric, but as part of the neighborhood.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2020