Herzog & de Meuron's apartment building features staircase towers

Staircase towers form corners of Uster apartment building by Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog & de Meuron has completed a concrete apartment building on the outskirts of Zurich, which has staircases housed in four cylindrical corner towers (+ slideshow).

The eight-storey block is located in Zellweger Park, Uster – a former industrial park that is being converted into a residential and commercial neighbourhood centred around a public park and sculpture garden.

Concrete apartment building in Zellweger Park by Herzog and de Meuron

The building contains 32 apartments, intended by Herzog & de Meuron to be as generously sized as possible. To achieve this, the Swiss architecture firm designed a building with staircases at all four corners, meaning there is no need for corridors.

To draw attention to these spiralling staircases, they stand inside cylindrical volumes reminiscent of the fortified towers of a castle.

Concrete apartment building in Zellweger Park by Herzog and de Meuron

All eight storeys contain four apartments, varying in size from 81 to 130 square metres. They can be accessed by lift as well as by staircase, and these lifts open directly into each home.

Apartments feature windows facing in two different directions, ensuring that each home is filled with plenty of natural light and ventilation. All 32 also have a private 20-square-metre balcony shaped in a crescent, fronted by white picket fences created by artist Erik Steinbrecher.

Concrete apartment building in Zellweger Park by Herzog and de Meuron

"Good proportions, flowing spaces and fabulous views – these primary architectural aspects define the quality of the apartments," explained partner in charge Christine Binswanger.

"We did without state-of-the-art fittings," she added, "instead emphasising a large measure of privacy and a close connection to the natural surroundings."

Concrete apartment building in Zellweger Park by Herzog and de Meuron

The building's structure is a simple concrete grid, which was poured using the inexpensive formwork. The concrete was left exposed on the exterior, and mistakes were only corrected if "technically necessary".

Inside, some concrete surfaces have been left unfinished to reveal the location of load-bearing walls. Partition walls are white-painted stucco, and there is also wooden strip flooring.

Concrete apartment building in Zellweger Park by Herzog and de Meuron

"We did not dress up the building," said Binswanger. "The concrete was moulded with the best formwork [available within the budget] and remained unaltered. The building is rough and you feel that it was done by hand."

A car park is located underneath the building, with 43 parking spaces for motor vehicles and 64 bicycle parking spaces.

Zellweger Park was left vacant in 2005, after the Zellweger Luwa air conditioning company was sold. Since then several architects have been involved in repurposing the area as a centre for work and living, including EM2N and Gigon/Guyer Architekten.

Concrete apartment building in Zellweger Park by Herzog and de Meuron

Herzog & de Meruon's building stands opposite the brand's former headquarters and showroom pavilion, designed in the 1960s by Swiss architect Roland Rohn.

"Within the typical Swiss agglomeration community of Zellweger, Uster Park stands out," said studio co-founder Jacques Herzog. "It is exemplified by owners who have long been demanding an architecture to cherish, and to provide a wide audience with access to an industrial site previously closed to the outside."

Concrete apartment building in Zellweger Park by Herzog and de Meuron

Herzog & de Meuron has also recently completed a monumental new stadium in Bordeaux and a mountain-top cable-car station. The firm is also currently working on a revamp of Chelsea FC's London stadium and the severely delayed Hamburg Elbphilharmonie concert hall.

Photography is by Erica Overmeer.


Project credits:

Project architect: Herzog & de Meuron
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Christine Binswanger
Project team: Michael Fischer, Alexander Franz, Salomé Gutscher, Nathalie Birkhäuser, Alen Guberinic, Emmanuel Guilloux, Vasilis Kalisperakis, Beatus Kopp, Aron Lorincz, Christian Schmitt, Eric Stutz, André Vergueiro, Miriam Waltz, Christoph Wassmann, Romy Weber
Artist: Erik Steinbrecher
Construction management: B+P Baurealisation
Electrical engineering: Pro Engineering
HVAC engineering: Waldhauser + Hermann
Landscape design: Hager Partner
Plumbing engineering: BLM-Haustechnik
Structural engineering: Schnetzer Puskas
Cost consultant: B+P Baurealisation
Acoustics: Martin Lienhard Bauund Raumakustik
Building physics: Zimmermann + Leuthe

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Site plan – click for larger image
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Ground floor plan – click for larger image
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First floor plan – click for larger image