Fanni Müller & Philippe Niffeler
The former fortification of Zurich from the 13th century is still perceivable in the city’s layout. Streets were built on top of ancient moats. The Fröschengraben moat on the left side of the Limmat River for example had been turned into a sewage drain and the prestigious Bahnhofstrasse was built over it. The path of the city wall itself is still visible in the row of buildings which where built in its place. Those buildings follow the ancient wall in their orientation and shield the old town, which lies behind them. In this sense, the city wall continues to exist but in a different architectural manifestation.
The plan of Jos Murer from 1576 shows the fortification as a key feature of the city. Alongside the church towers, the watchtowers and gates present themselves as landmarks and overlook the surrounding buildings. In the 19th century they were all torn down one after another as the city wall became obsolete.
We suggest giving the “city wall” its towers back as an act of bureaucracy in the form of a revision of the “Bau- und Zonenordnung” (BZO) of Zürich. The towers should be positioned at important places in the urban fabric along the former city wall. Our new buildings will overlook their surroundings in the same way as the ancient towers. We imagine those buildings as contemplative guardians of the city rather than severe guards. Much like the ancient watchtowers and gates they are related to each other but interact with their respective contexts in different ways.
We see the examination of the historical city structures as a way to further develop the existing city in a very specific manner. Through the re-enacting of historical structures, new buildings can be integrated into the city’s framework in a self-evident way.