Caruso St John Architects

Location: Zurich, CH
Client: Stiftung St. Jakob
Project Status: Competition, first prize; Ongoing project

Caruso St John’s design for St Jakob Stiftung responds to a collection of loose structures following a viaduct as it cuts through Zurich West. The building has a stepped profile and differentiated volume to accentuate its object quality and to make associations with older industrial buildings nearby. St Jakob has the qualities of a working building; open, robust, with light deep into the plan and a morphology that reflects the processes and activities that take place inside. Gentrification in the surrounding neighbourhood has broken the community’s relationship with its industrial past and this building goes some way to bridge these two worlds.

The building is as compact as possible, with larger floors housing the bakery and packing departments at the base of the building, and a stack of four smaller floors accommodating other facilities above. The south, west and east faces of the building are lined with balconies made in fine, repeated precast concrete elements. Part palazzo, part warehouse, the front facade of the building onto Heinrichstrasse is clad in pre-cast concrete, thin plates that stretch from floor to floor. In these ways the building shares some qualities with the cast-iron buildings of downtown New York.