This former industrial site near the centre of Zurich has been transformed into the “Seewürfel” (Lake Cubes) urban regeneration project, designed by Swiss practice Camenzind Evolution. 8 new mixed-use residential and office buildings form a composite whole that fits effortlessly into the surrounding historic residential urban fabric. Tree-lined walkways punctuated by landscaped piazzas with benches make the area permeable to the outside.
The 3 lower floors of each building house offices while the last two storeys contain up-market maisonette apartments. The buildings are terraced to follow the slight gradient of the terrain. Fully glazed façades overlooking the lake provide stunning views.
The unifying function of the modern architectural language is relieved by the different sizes and shapes of each individual construction, the projecting volumes and fluid site plan. The layout of each building is a function of use: openings are designed to provide views over the lake and or public piazzas. Each building relates with its neighbours to form a harmonious complex.
The interiors, especially the residential apartments, have been designed for maximum daylighting with full-height vision glass and spatial flexibility. Interior space is organised around a central nucleus containing the bathrooms, kitchen and services areas, and a lightweight interior staircase with glass railings connecting the two floors of each duplex apartment.
Construction details, cladding, glazing, entrances and finishings create a common architectural language. The juxtaposition of different features, the colour range of the different cladding materials and the glazed and reflective surfaces give each building an individuality of its own.
Grey fibre-cement cladding panels are a leit motif throughout while the reflective layered panels give a sense of depth to the façades. The cladding system was developed especially by Camenzind Evolution for this project: 20 mm thick panels consisting of two layers of 6 mm semi-toughened glass and 8 mm MDF board with 3 different types of wood-veneer, selected for their distinctive colour and wood grain.
The strong colours and texture of these timber-glass panels are a signature feature of the whole project. Light dappling with the movement of the trees, the reflected images of the surrounding architecture bring the exterior piazzas alive, lending lightness and warmth to the whole Seewürfel development.
The project, winner of the 2005 RIBA Worldwide Award, complies with strict Swiss energy efficiency regulations (Minergie). The heating and cooling system uses “concrete core activation” and heat pumps combined with deep-sunken geothermal pipes.