Refurbishing Modernism




The Restaurant Walensee is a deeply romantic
modernist building, nestled into the foot of
a mountain on the inside of the motorway
for which it was built as a service station
in 1968. In reality, the building is stranded,
both physically and functionally, having been
made redundant as long ago as 1986 by an
adjustment to the logic of the motorway. Its
concrete piloti support wide slabs that frame
the view of the Walensee and the sheer face of
the Churfirsten range that rises on the opposite
side of the lake. The Restaurant Walensee is a
small belvedere framing the modernist dream
of the infrastructure harmoniously speeding
through eternal nature.

Children, from their backseats wanted to live
there as grown-ups. For those grown-ups who
in passing, idly (or not) imagined real estate
opportunities. Yet for the natural sceptics,
demolition is the only reasonable procedure.
But travelling at speed through the landscape,
such thoughts are as fleeting as the views.
Time passes, and now as a 50-year-old, the
Restaurant Walensee seems to be doomed as so
many much older architectural ruins.



The Programme


The task is to find an appropriate and feasible
way to reuse the existing building. The programme
and approach are open. Imagine it
as your own project but one which should be
relevant to a wider architectural, cultural and
political discourse about re-use, restoration,
conservation and about the future of building.
The task may be modest but the subject will
occupy an enormous part of the next generation
of architectural production.

The building is the subject but you should
work with all scales to allow the project oscillate
between the detail, the construction and
the territory, the landscape and water front to
which it belongs.

Possible interventions: Cafe/Station, Bar/Station,
Hotel, Restaurant, exhibition
space, youth hostel, spa, sports centre,





You are to develop your own architectural
and technical agenda including programme,
spatial, material, constructional strategies and
solutions. Project must respond to current
and imminent building regulations, especially
in terms of conservation of energy. If current
regulations are not fit for purpose, you may
critical propose progressive alternatives. However
this is not an invitation for self-indulgent
design outside of regulation, it is an opportunity
to test architectural solutions which
may be used in other similar conditions. The
technical resolution should be central to the
thesis and should balance appropriate care
for the heritage in your custody with building
physics, environmental performance and




Your thesis should also include a presentation
that communicates the ideas, spirit, values of
the project as well as a comprehensive description
of the technical means to achieve it.
The final presentation should include both
internal and external treaments.
Architectural drawing spanning 1:5 to 1:500
at least, should demonstrate a holistic understanding
of the technical, material and human
qualities of the project.
Models should be used intelligently to engage
physical and spatial dimensions.
In short, while the subject is very specific, the
thesis you are invited to consider is open from
its conception to its communication.



Site Visit


Tuesday, 20.02.2018
14:40 Meeting at Mühlehorn train station for Site Visit
We recommend the following train connection
13:43 Zurich HB - 14:34 Mühlehorn
The visit will begin with a 40-minute hike beside the Walensee,
followed by approx. one hour at the Restaurant Walensee
N.B. The building itself is a ruin, so bring appropriate shoes and
warm clothing.
17:24 Train from Mühlehorn to Zurich HB



The brief can be downloaded from our server at

please click on FS18 - Master Thesis - Refurbishing Modernism


For downloading the large 3d landscape data and the drone aerial videos please use following scratch server:



01_Alle - 00 EMERSON - FS18 Master Thesis Theme C




An Architecture School for Zurich



The Brief

Theme B proposes to relocate the department of architecture to Kasernenareal.

The Department of Architecture is currently located at ETH Hönggerberg Science City and ONA in Oerlikon, with the additional use of the small Gisel Studio within the city. At Hönggerberg, the HIL building is due for a major refurbishment and the small pavilion studios will be redeveloped in the near future to make space for new academic buildings.

The department will have to relocate for the refurbishment. Whether temporary or permanent, moving the department is a major technical and cultural shift calling into question the fundamental purpose and values of an architectural education.

Returning the whole department to the city centre is the alternative that could extend its contribution to the social and creative life of the city. Kasernenareal offers far more space than is required for the teaching and research of the department, opening the possibility of extending the programme to include other public institutions associated with architecture and urbanism. An extended Architekturforum, exhibition hall, publisher, bookshop and more could be anchored by the department and bring together architectural discourse with the everyday life of the city.

The site covers approximately 63,000 square metres of ground. The existing buildings comprise of 35,000 to 40,000 square metres of internal space. The Department of Architecture requires around 21,000 square metres.

Kasernenareal is a listed historic monument. Any intervention, whether by re-use, restoration, extension, or partial or complete replacement will bring forward critical issues about history and heritage. While each student is free to develop their own architectural and urban strategy, an understanding of the legal and cultural consequences of development must be clear.

Projects may consider the entire site and all the buildings and open space within it. However, proposals may also focus on the architectural potential of a single building within the Kasernenareal (or ensemble of buildings) without necessarily alternating the architecture or use of the whole. For example, the police building at the eastern end of the site could be large enough to accommodate the programme.



The programme can be downloaded from our server at

please click on FS16 - Diploma - Kaserne



1/5 Main Hall; Lorenza Donati 


Basil Bolliger, Melina Cerfeda, Lorenza Donati, Angela Hottinger, Lena Schneider

Haus der Musik

1/17 Facade view; Rabea Kalbermatten 


Svenja Egge, Héloise Sierro, Rabea Kalbermatten, Michèle Skarpetowski, Daniel Tata Schneider



1/11 the forests of Zurich; Soren Davy, Ferdinand Rabe von Pappenheim 


Sören Davy, Ferdinand Rabe von Pappenheim


A Public Loggia for Zurich


1/6 collumn details; Melissa Vrolixs 


Alessandra Gava, Carla Häni, Ivana Milojevic, Lara Sciuto, Mélissa Vrolixs

Town Boundaries Brig

1/17 water in different conditions of aggregation in the Rhone Valley; Lukas Murer 


Joshua Brägger, Lukas Murer, Julian Oggier

Coach Station at the Sihlquai

1/14 conceptual collage; Jonathan Banz 


Jonathan Banz, Julia Hemmerling, Clemens Klein, Lambrini Pikis


The Railway River

With the current restructuring of the railway layout in Zurich, new land is becoming available. Poor access at the edges of the railway tracks and multiple ownerships prevents this space from being perceived or conceived as a singular urban condition.

In incremental adjustments to the existing landscape what was a backyard becomes the face of the city. Selection, retention and re-use of important buildings are connected by an evolving landsacpe strategy. New developments, set in a new linear landscape park, are added to the existing matrix, creating an urban paradigm that reconciles individual specifities within an overall ensemble.

1/10 The Railwayriver and its different scenarios; Katharina Ehrenklau 


Katharina Ehrenklau







Alexandra Martinec, Eleonora Bassi, Lea Hottiger, Michael Lüscher, Nathalie Schümperlin, Rebekka Marxer, Stefan Roos








Raymond Zahno



Crap Sogn Gion




Fabio Compagno


Sihl – Brief



Only forty centimeters deep, the clear water of the Sihl rushes northwards over a rocky river bed. Dog walkers and cyclists drift past the reeds, alders, beeches that line the lush banks of this natural idyll in the centre of the city. Less than a kilometer to the east another river flows from Lake Zurich through the city between precisely constructed stone embankments. Ferries run along the Limmat while bridges connect the banks, sometimes so wide as to become a market square over water. Between the soft wetlands of the Sihl and the engineered urbanity of the Limmat the Schanzengraben cuts a deep moat retracing the last defensive geometry of the once fortified city.


Yet despite appearances, it is the Sihl, more than the Limmat that is the product of human design and construction. The path of the Sihl through the city has been made and remade many times over the centuries to suit differing human requirements providing power to industry and transport for goods and materials and, perhaps most importantly, as a means of controlling the natural flooding caused by overflows of the river delta that flowed into Lake Zurich. Zurich’s central street pattern can be read as a great network of drainage channels to protect the city from the glacial flooding that still threatens the city centre. The Limmat sustains a dignified urban presence in the city along the natural path set by ancient geological deposits. 



Despite all the human intervention both recent and ancient, the Sihl is neglected, making a faltering passage through the city associated with being without the walls, i.e. outside the city proper, literally in the medieval city and maybe more psychologically in modern times.


This is not to say that the Sihl is without qualities. As it winds through the city it has moments of beauty (Sihlhölzli), or surreal juxtaposition below the underbelly of infrastructure (Enge to Wiedikon) or simply laconic indeterminacy in between. 



Theme A invites you to reconsider the potential of the Sihl to enrich the territories and spaces it traverses. It can be considered as a linear public space whose urban and ecological character could enhance the city it passes. On the other hand, it could be considered as a series of cross sections with specific spatial and programmatic properties on each side connected by the river banks. More radically but not without precedent (you only need to look at the Romans, 19th century engineers or 70’s utopians) the design task may be the river itself as a single artefact.


The Sihl is a piece of landscape infrastructure which is both singular and a sequence of changing conditions creating rooms in the city. The dam at Sihlsee manages the flow of water along its length but the river banks are not continuous. The task can consider the totality of the urban Sihl and its embankments, a continuous public space extending from Letten to Sihl City and beyond. On the other hand, the project may be more restricted to specific places across the river where the city would benefit from greater connectivity across the banks. 



Whether redesigning the riverbank, a bridge or densifying the city with new land, the project always remains a negotiation between the forces (and danger) of hydrology and the spatial structure of the city. But this is not a question simply of more development, but of potential to radically alter the identity of the city around its neglected river. 


The Sihl is an opportunity for students working in urban design, landscape design, architecture or construction to engage the architectural imagination with the broader idea of the city from hydro engineering to a poetic derive.





'Weiterbauen an einem städtisches Geviert'



Benedikt Hengartner, Fabian Lauener, Laura Hänni, Mathias Lattmann




Adelina Fasan, Andreas Klein, Jan Pisani, Marius Helten



A Pavilion on Lake Zurich



Jan Zachmann, Michael Fehlmann


Zürcher Theater Spektakel



Annie Blackadder, Florence Willi, Nikolaus von Lüttichau, Raphaela Künzle



A Hotel on Uetliberg



Mario Bisquolm, Philipp Schaefle, Sebastian Hefti




Hidden Zurich




Lukas Mersch, Nemanja Zimonjic





Sports, Nature und the City – Dolder Baths and Ice Rink



Katharina Schwiete, Lea Blodig, Lukas Burkhart, Noemi Engel, Sybille Nussbaum, Vedran Brasnic 

Interior and Monument



Levin Meraner, Nikolai Dunkel

Habis Royal



Anna Ebneter, Andreas Lochmatter, Bianca Kummer, Christoph Hiestand, Esther Vonwil, Guillaume Othenin-Girard, Ilaria Gianola, Lukas Kissling, Karl Rühle, Katrin Zumbrunnen, Sandra Mosbacher









The Raw and the Cooked - A Food Hall

1/7 Astrid Smitham 


Astrid Smitham, Berte Daan, Daniela Meyer, Deborah Troxler, Fabienne Waldburger, Filip Verbraken, Katrin Zimmermann, Michel Frei, Natalie Körner, Nathan Barnhart






The Raw and the Cooked - Brief




We probably have Hardbrücke to thank for ending the Y motorway planned to cut through the centre of the city. Built as a temporary structure in 1974, it is now a permanent condition in the city. 70,000 cars a day drive over the river and an increasingly varied array of provisional and planned development on the ground below. 

The current refurbishment of the bridge has guaranteed another 40 years of life and Theme A will be examining the wider urbanism emanating from the relation between temporary and permanent conditions from the river to the railways. Theme C will address a point in this wider territory where the multiple topographies of land and infrastructure stack like an accelerated sedimentation of human geology.

The temporal issue which is at the heart of legal definitions of temporary versus permanent can be expanded metaphorically to include the geological time which formed the riverbed and hosts the city to the fleeting moments of everyday life in the neighbourhood. 

The brief for Theme C is a public food hall, itself subject to the seasons and daily cycles of public life around Hardbrücke and the river. The food hall will be a small meeting point between people and the site, a public place where the complexity of natural and man-made topographies can be revealed and redefined. If Theme A deals with the urbanism of the wider area, Theme C is the urbanism of encounter or put another way, A is the territory and C is the point.



The Site

The site is a triangular piece of land on the southern bank of the river Limmat. It is defined by a series of lines and boundaries; the river, tram tracks, roads and bridges three dimensionally stacked to form one of the most complex corners in Zurich. It is remarkably well connected to every form of transport infrastructure yet is also completely cut off by the web of lines which surrounds it.

The main public high streets in Zurich are defined by precise start and end points, open public spaces with small public buildings. They connect to form a continous traverse from Bahnhof Tiefenbrunnen near the lake to the Hardturm Stadium (see drawing overleaf). The site forms a natural start for rethinking the public life of Hardstrasse below the bridge and the route from the river to Hardturm Stadium via Pfingstweidstrasse.



Recent History

Following the sudden growth in car traffic in the 1950’s and 60’s, Hardbrücke was built in 1974 as part of the huge expansion of road infrastructure passing through the centre of Zurich. The bridge was built as a temporary structure although the current refurbishment will extend its life for another forty years.

Since the opening of Hardbrücke, the surrounding areas combine a mix of large scale office developments and industrial space. The overall urban form is nevertheless loose and another layer of more provisional uses have gravitated towards the temporary nature of the neighbourhood; bars, night clubs and garages.

The southern end of Hardbrücke, towards the railway, is now subject to major redevelopment marked by the Prime Tower, which is now a major landmark across the city. The Food Hall may be considered the other, less monumental end to this new public space.

With both the planned and unplanned development of the area, the number of people using the area has increased enormously over the past few years. The northern end of Hardbrücke, Escher-Wyss Platz and the riverside remain uncertain and contested. Attempts at creating some civic character in the midst of the intertwined infrastructure have so far failed. Only a year ago, Caruso St John and Thomas Demand’s wonderful Nagelhaus was cancelled in an outburst of conservative rhetoric. The need for some civic infrastructure remains. It is beyond the scope of Theme C to address all these issues, however a single public building project can address some of the latent questions about the future and past of this extraordinary place and provide basic provision of public services such as WC’s to increase security.



Food and the City

One of the fundamental activities of cities throughout history has been  the production, storage and distribution of food. Today however only consumption remains. Even in this diminished field of food, many of the socio-cultural rituals and meanings have been eradicated in favour of speed, economy and ‘efficiency’. The erasure of food as a major force in the city matrix is matched only by its almost infinite availability. The only evidence of the provenance of food is ironically in the major roadways which allow trucks to deliver food (usually at night) from mega-distribution centres a long distance from city centres.



Food Hall

The food hall is a large public place to eat; a room in the city. It combines the preparation and serving of meals to large numbers of people with the production and retail of other foods (for example a bakery, fish monger, etc). The nature of the primary hall also lends itself to other forms of public assembly (music, theatre, public meetings, etc). Detailed attention must be given to the character of the interior, furniture, light, lighting and acoustics.




The following material is available on dvd and can be picked up from Mathias Imgrüt at HIL E73.1 
– Master Thesis brief
– Drawings (Katasterpläne, Projektpläne Hardbrücke)
– Archive Material (Baugeschichtliches Archiv)
– Current development of the area
– Geology
– Photography






Limmatquai Theatre

1/10 Courtyard theatre embedded in urban block; Nelly Pilz 


Amélie Fibicher, Felipe Fankhauser Bergental, Georg Loretan, Marco Kistler, Nelly Pilz, Theres Hollenstein