Swiss National Museum, Zurich, Switzerland

Water levels

Client: Eidgenössisches Bundesamt für Bauten und Logistik
Architecture: Christ & Gantenbein Architekten
Period: 2007 – 2016
Surface area: 19 000m2

Arriving at the Zurich Main Station, it is only a few steps to one of the most famous parks of the city: the so-called Platzspitz. A shooting range at first, a baroque pleasure ground later on and an important part of the national exhibition in 1883, it became the infamous center of the open drug scene in the 1980s. With reconstructing it in 1993, it was opened to the public again. The existing structures and the valuable old trees make it an attractive open space in a prime location, right next to the Swiss National Museum; significant for both visitors and garden historians.

Walking from the city to the park different types of open spaces come together: the forecourt and the two side entrances to the park, the Museum Courtyard and the new Garden Courtyard, which is formed by the new annex, to the actual park. The new design strengthens the different functions of these diverse open spaces.

With the construction of the new annex building, the museum’s main entrance will be moved. This will bring the forecourt more into the center of attention. An urban square will be formed, representing generosity and offering space for multiple functions. The surface material is inspired by the close rivers Limmat and Sihl: Cobble stones are inserted into an asphalt surface, being visible like inclusions. The continuous surface visually connects the different open spaces. The existing trees are completed to an avenue. Thus, a shady and atmospheric passage from city to park is created, offering areas for passage, long and short rests with comfortable furniture.  

The Garden Courtyard, occurring due to the new annexe, is characterized by a minimalistic design. With only few, distinctive elements, like a single tree and two pools, it sets the stage for the park. A gateway from park to courtyard during daytime, the mirroring water surfaces of the illuminated pools and the annexe’s reflecting façade create the atmosphere of a grotto at night.

The re-design is offering the opportunity to make use of the full potential of the place and to put it back into the public’s focus – as a place for recreation, a park, a promenade and Zurich’s very own, most central urban park.