Studio Eva Prats, Building Communities – ETH Zürich
Autumn semester 2020 (HS20)
Visiting Professor: Eva Prats
Adviser: Ricardo Flores
Teaching Assistants: Annina Meier & Guillaume Guisan
Carole von Ziegler
Pedro Tosatto Siedel
Building communities implies creating relationships that hold together people and things from different backgrounds and different times, a community between new and old neighbours, between new and old fragments of a built city in which, in the end, everyone, people and things, live in a new unity.
We understand urban rehabilitation as the balance between the recovery of a physical fabric and a social fabric: both complement each other and work at the same time. To read the memory contained in buildings and in people is to think about a future that counts on that past.
The ‘Building Communities’ Studio works with two parallel objectives:
- The recovery of a fragmented urban fabric, studying the possibilities of rehabilitation from the insertion of new programs, where housing will be the main but not the only one. The concrete tests of physical transformation of existing structures for the incorporation of houses or other complementary programs, within criteria of sustainability from the rehabilitation of obsolete architectures, is the main working material of the studio.
- The definition of the typology of the house and its grouping -the community adapting it each time to the area of the city where it is located.
The studio worked in Neugasse, a very central neighbourhood of the city of Zurich, an area of discontinuities between urban fabrics, strong changes of scales and programs that coexist connected to each other: the infrastructure, present in the train industry linked to the nearby Hauptbahnhof or in the Viadukt, an elevated line for trains and pedestrians with shops and cafes under it; the housing program, visible in the numerous cooperative buildings which define entire city blocks along Josefstrasse, Heinrichstrasse or Limmatstrasse; and the public spaces, represented here mainly in the beautiful Josefsweise, which occupies the centre of the neighbourhood and is intensively used by locals or passersbies. This park is defined in part by its perimeter vegetation and in part by the high presence of the Viadukt, which becomes an active limit that allows many of the activities taking place in the park to rely on it. The back side of this Viadukt used to be a large industrial area, still present in some huge urban infrastructures such as the Waste Incinerator, still in use and very present in the place.
In the middle of all these urban elements stands the Lokomotivdepot, a valuable historic building of which the scale and structure is guided by what is contained inside: an accumulation of powerful locomotives and long trains behind them brought here to be repaired, cleaned, checked and to get ready to ride again. The scale of the inner spaces and the span of the structure that covers them are defined by the geometry of long movements of these enormous machines, by its turns and manoeuvres, which has nothing to do with the scale of the movements of the humans that live around it.