ZÜRICH – Alfred-Escher-Strasse on the left bank of Zürich’s much-loved lake is a busy arterial street dominated by large office blocks. Now, the architectural office Züst Gübeli Gambetti has realised a more modestly-sized residential building containing a ground-floor commercial programme in an effort to diversify its surroundings.

The new building replaces an older residential block from the 1940s, but its aesthetic nevertheless recalls a more traditional version of mid-century architecture. ‘We nurture a critical contextualism that transports and transposes cultural values,’ the architects explain. ‘We perceive the traditional art of construction as the backbone of a contemporary architectural language.’

The building certainly does not hide its references to Swiss building tradition, yet there is something contemporary about its irregular façade composition, the floor-to-ceiling windows and crisp, prefabricated concrete cornices. ‘These shifts explicitly illustrate the temporal and conceptual distance between the 1950s and our work for the present time.’ The architects explain, ‘Our intention is not to glorify the past but to reflect on classical aesthetics in light of state-of-the art construction techniques.’

Inside, the apartments are generously-sized and feature open-plan, free-flowing living space, demonstrating the fusion between contemporary spatial arrangements and the need to integrate modern lifestyle within a dense, European city. ‘By adopting traditional elements, we convey past qualities to the users and work on our idea of a more beautiful city,’ Züst Gübeli Gambetti conclude.

Photos Valentin Jeck