Posts Tagged: Markthalle



Im Viadukt, Zürich

Recently I was in Zurich, Switzerland and stumbled across this:

Viaduktstrasse in Zurich, Switzerland. Image by coyote-agile.

What you’re looking at is Im Viadukt, a new commercial and shopping district built into the stone mason arches of Zurich’s Wipkingen Viadukt.

Originally the Viaduct dates from 1894 and was used to ferry passenger trains into the core of Zurich. Like most elevated infrastructure, the Viaduct divided the area into two distinct zones. In the Wipkingen situation, the area known locally as District 5 was split into a residential area and an industrial area. Over time, shops disappeared and were replaced with the less-reputable sex and entertainment trades.

Tearing down the Viadukt was not, however, an option. Industry and the outlying suburbs relied on that rail link; much of the inner suburbs of Zurich are already covered by rail tracks, with little room to add to the clutter; and given the cost of Swiss labour and permitting, tunneling would have been all but impossible. In other words, the Viadukt wasn’t going anywhere.

(Update: According Matthias, some of the above paragraph is incorrect. Please see comments below.)

The Im Viadukt Plan. Image from

It was in this environment that the city commissioned an open design competition in the mid-2000’s. Zurich architectural firm EM2N won the challenge in 2004 with their innovative effort to recreate the Viadukt “from a spatial barrier to a connecting structureal element.” The results are only now being appreciated as shops and the central Markthalle opened just this fall.

These two quick news reports (in German) should give you some idea of the importance of what’s going on here:

Whether planners and urban designers like it or not, large-scale infrastructure is here to stay. And as the cost of land and tunneling increases, elevated infrastructure is likely to take a major place at the table. But as I’ve argued before ugly is a choice and ugly is an opportunity to be beautiful.

Planners who rail against the ugliness and disruptive aspect of elevated infrastructure need to see things like Im Viadukt because things like this are going to become more and more common. Indeed, they’re going to become more and more necessary.

But ask yourself: If instead of building Im Viadukt 100 years after the fact, what if it had been designed into the Wipkingen to begin with?

(As Im Viadukt is practically brand new, there is little in the way of press, images and videos from the English-speaking world. I therefore encourage readers – especially those in the German-speaking world – who come across such things to post them in the comments to help inform people about this truly revolutionary urban development.)

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