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Published: 28.10.2004, 06:00
Modified: 28.10.2004, 15:31
Exhibition on sports centre at ETH Hönggerberg
Star of the slope

(cm) The book "Am Hang“ ("On the slope") has caused quite a stir recently (1). Soon, perhaps, a building on a slope will be at the centre of interest. Because in the winning project of a competition for a sports centre, nicknamed "Franzose“, architects Dietrich/Untertrifaller from Bregenz propose a building that seems to sweep out of the sloping ground at Hönggerberg like a ski-jump slope (2). An exhibition opened at ETH Hönggerberg last week, organised by the ETH Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta). At the opening, the original seven competition entries were presented with plans and models (3), and the successful duo gave a talk.

Helmut Dietrich and Much Untertrifaller took the opportunity to give extensive insights into their creative work (4). This ranges from houses in the Bregenz forest, kindergartens, industrial buildings, to a musical theatre in the vicinity of the town hall in Vienna. What is especially striking in all the work presented is the convincing use the successful team makes of light. This also applies to the sports and media centre in St. Anton on Arlberg, built for the Ski World Championship 2001. Here, they were faced with a situation similar to that at Hönggerberg, said Untertrifaller.

As in St. Anton, where skiers arrive directly on to the roof of the building, at Hönggerberg people from the campus opposite will be able to access the roof of the sports centre without changing levels. The roof itself will be made "playable" with an archery enclosure, two tennis courts and two beach volleyball courts. Like a pair of tongues, two ramps lead from here into the inner spaces of the sports centre. Down the slope the roof will be finished off with an L-shaped body with a green-shimmering glass fašade, which will serve as a focus point. This significant part of the building is what earned the project its nickname, of "Franzose", (i.e. a "French"), which is what the Austrians call a spanner.


Seen from the outside, the building is integrated into the slope, from the campus a prominent fašade: the successful project for the new sports centre at Hönggerberg from the architects Dietrich/Untertrifaller. (Picture: Dietrich/Untertrifaller) large

In its evaluation the jury considered that the design of the project from Bregenz is worthy of a modern sports venue for both leisure and school sports. The jury expressed its pleasure in the cunning combination of daylight sources with the structure of the roof. The jury added a criticism to their judgement regarding the size of the building–greater than average area dimensions and volume would lead to higher than projected costs.

Should funding be assured and all goes to plan, the sports centre will be up and running by 2007 or 2008, as ETH Vice-president Gerhard Schmitt explained at the opening of the exhibition. Schmitt's address made clear that the centre is not being built as an exclusive enrichment for students and staff of ETH, but that it will also serve the local population. However, the Vice-president Planning and Logistics added that in his experience, good infrastructure is a deciding factor in the competition for the best researchers. So perhaps with a building convincingly placed in the landscape brilliant new minds can be integrated into ETH Zurich.

(1) Markus Werner „Am Hang“, S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3100910664
(2) Cf. ETH Life report “Four proposals and a decision":
(3) Exhibition Sports Centre ETH Hönggerberg: Thursday, 21st October – Thursday, 25th November 2004, Architekturfoyer, ETH Hönggerberg, Zurich
(4) Homepage Dietrich/Untertrifaller:

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