New Grünhof site creates living space and improves quality of life

Projections suggest that 520,000 people will be living in the city of Zurich by 2040. That’s a population increase of about 100,000 compared to now. Living and working in the city is still very much a megatrend. Everything needs to be brought closer together in response. And that means care facilities, places of work, cultural offerings and leisure options should ideally all be together in one location. Whilst people moved out of towns and cities between the 1960s and 1990s, there has been a clear shift towards urban living since the early 2000s.

Space is urgently required. And the key to making space in a built-up city is densification. Allreal is well aware of the requirements here and covers various aspects of densification within its own building projects in terms of construction, occupancy and social interaction. As a full-service provider with decades of experience, Allreal focuses on delivering high-quality architecture and also aims to tick all the boxes when it comes to the quality of life of residents and neighbours.

With the Grünhof site, Allreal has created some of that residential space that is so desperately required in a central location, laying the foundations for a tight-knit community based on social interaction.

Grünhof site leading the way in densification

When towns and cities need to grow, there are only two options: outside or inside. Growing outside involves extending a town or city a bit beyond its original boundaries. However, our tendency to continually make use of land and increasingly encroach on the countryside is the subject of much discussion and debate amongst experts, politicians and society as a whole. Expanding inside a town or city – by building up or making things more concentrated – appears to be the answer to the phenomenon of urban sprawl. In other words, densification within existing town and city boundaries is a must.

Swiss voters clearly expressed their acceptance of housing developments inside those existing boundaries, having accepted the revision to the Swiss Spatial Planning Law in 2014. This development brings with it town planning challenges. Space in towns and cities is limited. So how can densification be delivered without proving detrimental to the quality of urban planning and the quality of life for residents? Allreal tries to strike a balance with solutions for its own developments. It’s less a question of whether the quality of life can still be there in the face of densification and more about how the quality of life can be improved through the densification measures being taken. The Grünhof site is the perfect example of how this can be achieved.

Building densification goes hand in hand with social densification. After all, densification means that more people are living near one another, which can in turn bring more opportunities for interaction between them. And there’s a lot of potential there. From an architectural point of view, it’s the spaces between the buildings that impact upon the quality of life. Think open spaces, flora and fauna, variety and diversity. The architects at Max Dudler have really taken this on board. Basically, you need a certain level of density to encourage interaction between people.

Grünhof – “Courtyard living”

On the Grünhof site spanning some 7,000 square metres in Zurich’s District 4, Allreal developed, planned and realised a new build with 80 rental apartments in the inner courtyard along with a replacement new build on Badenerstrasse with eight rental apartments and 244 square metres of commercial/office space.

It wasn’t worth refurbishing the properties in the inner courtyard that had been built at the start of the 19th century and then only ever used for commercial purposes. And so Allreal hired the highly regarded Max Dudler Architekten architecture firm to perform a development study on the inner courtyard in 2013. When it came to the replacement new build at Badenerstrasse 131, Allreal conducted a study contract as part of a competition, which saw architecture firm Hauser Meier Architektinnen come out on top. Arc Architekten were commissioned directly to work on the renovations at Badenerstrasse 119 and 123.

When it came to the architecture, it was a strict requirement that the inner courtyard and the properties on Köchlistrasse and Badenerstrasse blended in nicely with the rest of the neighbourhood. By cleverly dividing up the development, a network of inner courtyards with different designs was created, transforming the site into a safe haven at the heart of the city. The atmospheric green courtyard area sets the scene for an urban community with a strong sense of individuality in this neighbourhood.

With so many different sizes, directions and floor plans on offer, a diverse group of residents has been attracted to the apartments on site. A water-struck clinker brick in a dark colour was used for the fronts of the new builds in the inner courtyard.

In contrast with the inner courtyard, the prominently positioned new build at Badener­strasse 131 reflects the building style at the edge of the block facing the road. And so the front is a warm sandy colour.

Within the scope of the whole project, Allreal also ended up renovating four existing properties along Badener­strasse/Grüngasse to a high standard. Two of these buildings had their facades repaired and the interior completely renovated, with some of the floor plan being rejigged and a new apartment being built on an additional floor.

The lack of space was the biggest challenge posed by the whole project. All materials had to be delivered to the construction site via the narrow access road between the Salvation Army building and Grüngasse 31. “How do we work with so many materials on such a small site? How can we get rid of the materials that are already there and bring in the new materials we need? Those were some of the biggest challenges involved in this project”, says Christoph Koch, Head of Special Building Projects at Allreal, who headed up the team responsible for the construction work for the project. “We knew that we had to manage our time very carefully.” This was all planned down to the last detail and implemented meticulously, which required strict discipline from all involved.

Allreal builds value

After three busy years of building work, the new and improved Grünhof site was completed in the spring of 2021. Its redesign has given the neighbourhood a stylish and modern upgrade. Not to mention that the project has added over 11,000 square metres of residential and commercial space, which is so desperately needed in the city. The inner courtyard is a quiet haven for residents at the heart of Zurich’s vibrant District 4.

People and businesses started bringing the site to life in February 2021. Street-Files in the replacement new build at Badener­strasse 131 opened its doors to customers in March 2021. This concept store covering around 150 square metres is a hit with customers. Plus, with its focus on responsible Scandinavian brands, it fits in perfectly with its new home. “We really hit the jackpot with the location. Our most loyal customers live right in this neighbourhood”, says Shop Manager Alex Schwarz, who mans the till.