ARCH+ features 10: EM2N and Stephan Trüby
In Zürich's "Toni-Areal", a former industrial complex currently the subject of a major refurbishment project, architectural theoretician Stephan Trüby met with Mathias Müller and Daniel Niggli of the Zurich-based bureau EM2N. The building, commissioned in 1961 as Europe's most up-to-date dairy, is now set to be the future home of the Zurich University of the Arts.
Architectural theoretician Stephan Trüby, who heads up the Spatial Design Master Program at the Zurich University of the Arts, explained the relationship between flesh and stone. He studies how movements become inscribed in architecture and how the body is conceived in terms of its connection with space. Trüby refers to service-based architecture such as the thermal baths in Vals but also to complex corridor and tunnel systems and the Taylorized kitchen, in which perfect workflows determine the floor plan.
According to ARCH+ editor Anh-Linh Ngo, a focal issue for the Zurich-based bureau EM2N is that of spatial permeation, the sensible splitting of spaces into sequences. Mathias Müller and Daniel Niggli call this "organic functionalism", in a reference to Hans Scharoun, who designed schools as cities. Niggli considers the Toni-Areal to have an "uncanny presence": "We were only able to take on this project because we view this as an urbanistic building". The canteen, for example, can be used as an assembly area, the staircases as recreation spaces. EM2N on its concept of inner urbanism: "What is important is to open up big spaces on the inside". Their approach is to tackle the building by the creation of points of resistance which, unlike the Frankfurt kitchen, challenge the users to decide for themselves.
Trüby, who perceives the Toni-Areal as a "positive monstrosity" confirms this view: "When you exceed a certain size, the rules of architecture no longer function, new rules are created". An example is the external system of ramps which dominates the building and which EM2N is opening up as a kind of vertical boulevard of culture: "We are excited about what people will make out of this public threshold space".
Mathias Müller and Daniel Niggli on the threshold: "What captures our interest are architectural spaces, their boundaries and limits and the relationships generated between these spaces. Thresholds as places of transition deserve our very special attention".

Picture: Man and architecture shortly before unification.
Picture: The current home of the Zurich University of the Arts and Museum of Design.

All pictures courtesy of: David von Becker
© 2020 S. Siedle & Söhne OHG