The Barcelona-based architecture firm Barozzi Veiga was formed in the year 2004, by Fabrizio Barozzi, an Italian architect, and Alberto Veiga, a Spanish architect. Over the years, the firm quickly rose to fame and was recognized around the world for its ream of innovative and interactive cultural projects. 

Location: Zürich, Switzerland
Area: 1500 sq.m
Architects: Fabrizio Barozzi, Alberto Veiga of Estudio Barozzi Veiga
Completion of Project: 2019

Their philosophies are rooted in attention to detail, a strong contextual response, and the artistic, sculptural use of local materials. Barozzi Veiga is lauded by many for its ability to create a beautiful story through architectural elements and connect with cultural dynamics. 

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The mesmerising façade of Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center. ©Simon Menges

In 2014, Barozzi Veiga won an international competition conducted by the Amt für Hochbauten or The Office for Building Construction, Zürich. The competition revolved around the construction of a new Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center, and the rejuvenation of the entire bank of the Limmat river. 

Design

In 2012, a municipal building that housed the Swiss Textil School, and Tanzhaus, a workshop and performance center for contemporary dance, was burnt to smithereens by a devastating fire. The new Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center is built on this plot in the lush green, yet increasingly fashionable district of Wipkingen. The 1500 square meter building is quite a strong volume, set against the backdrop of residential buildings. 

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The mesmerising façade of Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center. ©Simon Menges

Philosophy 

Along with its transformation of the existing site, the Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center aims to revive and redefine the former residential conditions of the surrounding location. This is achieved by the building’s continuous façade which was conceived as an innovative reinterpretation and amalgamation of existing elements, that are etched in the industrial past of the neighborhood. 

These elements include overpass passages, the continuous flow of modular metal structures of the bridge, and longitudinal piers typically associated with Baths. 

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Elements from the surrounding context have been incorporated in the center. ©Simon Menges

Drawing from the context’s rich industrial heritage, the structure’s basic form evokes that of the adjacent Letten Viadukt, a railway tunnel, and this little detail beautifully embraces the geographical surroundings. 

The center’s alluring charm is perfectly captured in the way it rises from the riverside greenery down below, giving it the serene illusion of a building floating above the water. Its subtle form blends in with the surrounding landscape making it almost imperceptible from the rear side. 

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Walkways promote public interaction with space. ©Simon Menges

Solutions 

The Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center has been designed as a simple, tiered structural volume that seamlessly integrates with the slope, making it barely noticeable from the exteriors. By incorporating the new building into the surrounding context, the project succeeds in skillfully merging the old and the new. 

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Section that depicts the tiered volume of Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center. ©Estudio Barozzi Veiga

The center can be construed as an element in itself that allows for an interactive public space to be generated on its roof. It connects existing itineraries at diverse levels that entwine and complement each other along the riverbank. The choice of the trapezoidal form and its repetitive use not only gives a continuous structural façade but also protects the building and imparts a unique characteristic to it. 

Planning

The uniform façade of the Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center defines and opens up to the entire public space at the brink of the Limmat river and enriches the public space by connecting the outdoors with the foyer. 

The geometry of the trapezoidal-shaped openings brings in an ample amount of natural light into the building, giving it a contemporary and inviting aura. The resulting play of light and shadows of the distinctly permeable façade that is highlighted by vegetation gives a unique, impressionable character to the cultural center’s foyer.

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Trapezoidal apertures in the foyer bring in natural light. ©Simon Menges
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Multifunctional Hall. ©Simon Menges
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A beautiful play of light and shadow brought in by the trapezoidal windows. ©Simon Menges

Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center is divided into two levels – the upper level for private users, and the lower one for public users. This division facilitates the provision of separate access points into the building and stimulates public circulation around it, giving the building a lively, vibrant vibea reflection of the river’s dynamic nature.

The main foyer runs the entire length of the external elevation and provides access to the production rooms and the primary multifunctional hall. This space occupies two storeys,  and the upper level is accommodated by Tanzhaus offices and backstage areas.

Construction and Materials

The grey color palette of the exposed concrete façade, and the surrounding greenery, complement the hues of a historical building in Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center’s proximity. The concrete insulates the contemporary space and is punctuated by unique trapezoidal apertures that enable natural light to stream in and elevate the welcoming aura of the interiors.

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The grey color palette of exposed concrete is complemented by the green vegetation. ©Simon Menges

The diagonal angles seen in the continuous structural façade, are also seen in the interiors where the rectangular pillars and beams, typically found in Swiss architecture have been transmuted to give the cultural center a distinctive profile. 

The concatenation of interior volumes imparts an austere grandeur to the Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center, something that bears a certain degree of resemblance to Barozzi Veiga’s Solo House in Spain.

By incorporating contextual elements, cultural dynamics, and a mesmerizing play of light and shadow, the project by Barozzi Veiga does justice to the reflection of the Tanzhaus Zürich Cultural Center as the most prominent and celebrated contemporary dance centers in Switzerland. 

Author

Deeksha Kamath is a fresh graduate from Manipal School of Architecture and Planning, India, with a penchant for writing. She believes that words, when strung together beautifully, can evoke the greatest emotions in readers. With this precept, she aspires to proliferate her love for architecture, through her writing.

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