Spring '15

Open Village

Designing Open Housing for Zurich's Geroldareal

Design Studio

  • Start 17.02.2015
  • ETH Zurich, ONA
  • Prof. Alfredo Brillembourg & Prof. Hubert Klumpner
    Hannes Gutberlet, Katerina Kourkoula


Imagine you are a family looking for affordable housing in the center of Zurich ? Imagine you are an immigrant arriving in Switzerland with little means and a great interest to live and work in a community environment instead of the anonymity of suburbia ? Imagine you grew up in Wiedikon but can no longer afford increasing rent-prices in your neighborhood, for yourself and your business?

In this studio we would like to put you in this position. We would like you to develop an affordable mixed-use housing community on the Geroldareal in the heart of Zurich. We will ask you to develop concepts for those groups of society that cannot afford the rents of Europaallee and Niederdorf.

Since recent years, Zurich continues to show an average vacancy rate for housing close to zero. The demand for housing has been outgrowing its supply by far while the exodus of the middle and upper class during the 1950s is being inversed. Those who can afford living in the center are taking advantage of short commutes and a great supply of public amenities. Low-income households are increasingly forced to exit the city to find cheaper housing on the city’s fringes or in suburban agglomerations. Meanwhile, in South America, Asia and Africa, the long-term consequences of urban expulsion are manifested in the expansive informal settlements located on the fringes of every larger city. At the same time, informal settlements such as the urban villages in Shenzhen and Torre David in Caracas represent surprising examples of vertical communities with a great sense of solidarity and spatial inventiveness. Zurich is not Caracas or Shenzhen, but is there something we can learn ? In this studio, we would therefore like to investigate whether these examples are applicable for a more saturated and developed context such as Zurich.

Throughout Zurich there are only few examples at the building scale that have attempted to counteract market pressures. Cooperative housing projects such as the Kraftwerk 1 and Kalkbreite appear to be courageous oases within Zurich’s treacherous desert of rent inflating housing markets. What kind of spatial, economic and process-oriented strategies are needed to conceive housing alternatives for underprivileged households? What kind of structural systems and typological layouts are necessary to provide flexible structures for changing uses?

This studio would like to tackle these pressing issues in order to provide constructive visions for increasing demands.