The New Toni-Areal in Zürich West

One of the Largest Construction Projects in Switzerland

Starting in 2013, the former milk processing facility will be the new home of the Zürich University of the Arts and two departments of the Zürich University of Applied Sciences. “The Toni Areal is an important investment in Zürich as an educational and cultural center that benefits the local creative economy,” noted Regine Aeppli, Director of Education, at the beginning of the remodeling and extension work. Many of the main areas of the building will be accessible to the public. Construction Manager Markus Kägi says, “Though the industrial character of the colossus is preserved, we’re not creating a fortress, but an open and permeable building.”

The Toni-Areal is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken in Zürich and will be the largest construction site in Switzerland during its realization phase. The total usable floor space is 108,500 m2 (c. 1,168,000 ft2), of which the colleges comprise 84,500 m2 (c. 909,550 ft2). The remaining 23,500 m2 (c. 274,480 ft2) are dedicated to housing, cultural events, restaurants, and small retail shops, as well as parking and technology. The construction price—including basic upgrades and tenant upgrades—amounts to about 350 million Swiss francs.

Rapid Urban Development

The gigantic industrial complex in Zürich West first opened in 1977 as Europe’s largest and most modern milk processing facility and was closed in 2000 after only 23 years. During the interim period, the Areal was used by clubs for cultural and sporting events. In 2006, a contracted study pursued the possibility of its architectural rebirth as an educational and cultural center. The new Zürich University of the Arts and the Universities of Social Work and Applied Psychology now look forward to sharing their new homes here.

Today, Zürich West is a thriving area that has largely escaped its industrial past. Its transformation into a mixed, lively part of town serving many diverse uses is still in full swing—Zürich West is up and coming. The Toni-Areal project combines two interesting developments—on one hand, the project represents a spatial implementation of the reformed academic landscape in Switzerland. On the other, it is a crucial element in the urban transformation process that has overtaken this town–a development that will change and shape the character of Zürich as a whole.

Planning with Vectorworks Architect

Vectorworks is a CAD program which creates the perfect balance between the expectations that typically exist for a contest competition plan and those that exist for an implementation plan. This CAD software accomplishes both tasks without any problem.

--Christof Zollinger, Associate and General Project Manager, EM2N, Zürich, Switzerland

Like all EM2N projects, the Toni-Areal was planned with the help of VectorworksArchitect software. In a project with a building volume of 520,500 m3 (c. 18,381,284 ft3) and a 125,000 m2 (c. 1,345,489 ft2) gross floor space that approximates the size of an entire city quarter, the sheer volume of data represents a formidable challenge. Thanks to Vectorworks’ simple and flexible data model, EM2N was able to efficiently manage this enormous amount of data. Depending upon the need at hand, EM2N could store one plan in a single document, assemble several plans in one CAD/BIM document, or reference certain components in other plans, like the Toni-Areal’s inventory. Traditionally, the Vectorworks application has been especially effective for creating layouts. “A plan composition with layout, profile, and detail views must happen quickly, and Vectorworks does a very good job with it,” says Christof Zollinger, one of the two general project managers for the Toni-Areal and an associate at EM2N. He has managed the Toni-Areal team at EM2N since 2006. “Vectorworks is a CAD program which creates the perfect balance between the expectations that typically exist for a contest competition plan and those that exist for an implementation plan. This CAD software accomplishes both tasks without any problem,” explains Zollinger.

In addition to the entire construction detail, as well as the countless plans for layouts, profiles, façades, staircases, details, and other components, the firm also compiled special plans for the “pearls,” a name coined by EM2N project manager Enis Basartangil for the six most significant locations within the Toni-Areal. The pearls include the library, the entrance hall, and the concert hall, among other locations. The plans for these representative locations are graphically more elaborate than those for other building components and display additional information such as structural engineering information, since these spaces usually extend over several floors.

We think of the Toni-Areal as of a perforated urban object that you can stroll through as you would through any other part of town.

--Daniel Niggli, Mathias Müller, Principals, EM2N, Zürich, Switzerland

Space and acoustics play a crucial role in the concert hall’s design. The entrance hall drawings include all surfaces with the construction joints, as well as all façades. With the Vectorworks program, the firm was able to handle the large size and number of all the plans with precision and efficiency–the program was at all times fully in control of the Herculean task.

Teamwork

The scope and complexity of the project, as well as the size of the team, made it necessary to create a system of parameters that would record and standardize the ground rules for working with the design software for all involved parties. This included directions for the program settings, a definition of the class structure, correct naming of plans, a plan structure, adept handling of the Vectorworks’ teamwork functions, as well as details like the seven line widths and numerous tips for concrete. The system ensured a uniform use of the Vectorworks program and subsequently the creation of consistent plans and documents. It serves as an encyclopedia and assists all those that newly join the project. 

The CAD-integrated database used BIM to collect building information for doors, door numbers, room sizes, and room numbers. Moreover, the team compiled a symbol library specifically for the Toni-Areal. “Once we introduced the necessary structures and everyone observed them, Vectorworks ran impeccably,” observes Basartangil. In the meantime the system of rules has become so comprehensive that a revised version was adopted by EM2N as the office standard.

EM2N did not just use symbols for doors, interior glazing, sinks, and other items. Rather, entire residential units were defined as one symbol in order to perform changes in the 20 plus residential units in an efficient and consistent manner. 

Becoming Part of Town

With the realization of the Toni-Areal, two educational institutions, The College of Design and Arts and the Academy of Music and Theater, will be united to form the new Zürich University of the Arts, which will share space with the Zürich University of Applied Sciences. By consolidating the two institutions in one location, they will be able to optimize their space requirements and reduce their operating costs.

EM2N’s proposal was chosen primarily for its flexibility, which was best able to accommodate the entirely different requirements of two educational institutions with respect to their home. “What mattered was the space allocation plan that we compiled with the help of Vectorworks. We did not initially define each room with its detailed function, but rather specified areas and quarters within the existing structure,” Zollinger explains. “Only in this way could the current and possible future needs of the two universities be satisfied.”

What mattered was the space allocation plan that we compiled with the help of Vectorworks. We did not initially define each room with its detailed function, but rather specified areas and quarters within the existing structure.

--Christof Zollinger, EM2N, Zürich, Switzerland

The Toni-Areal project challenges EM2N to develop a plan for a building almost the size of a city block. The central driving idea is the combination of the building’s many uses and the momentum it creates throughout the city. Daniel Niggli and Mathias Müller, the principals at EM2N, therefore approached this project as a prototypical problem of urban development. Their design proposes to reconcile the size of the project with a kind of inner urbanism.

The team conceived of the existing ramp construction in the north as a vertical boulevard and redesigned it as one of the major improvements. The architects created a large public hall at the intersection of high and low rise elements. These two pieces are linked by a cascade-like sequence of halls and staircases, and this layout created internal addresses that position the various spaces just like buildings in the city. At the same time the building becomes a city component in an inhospitable environment.

 “We want the Toni-Areal to be not just a school, but a part of the city. We think of the Toni- Areal as a perforated urban object that you can stroll through as you would through any other part of town. Of course, this lends a crucial significance to the walk within and through the building as a ´promenade architecturale,` in the sense of a mutual permeation and interconnection,” write Niggli and Müller.*

The unconventional architectural framework requirements also ensure that the project constitutes an architectural challenge. To create an open scope of action for the campus visitors, EM2N worked with various precisions, scales, and tonalities—sometimes rough, sometimes refined, in part over-defined and in part under-defined, with a selection of both large public and intimate private rooms. The building as a city, the city as a building.

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