Institution: Studio Vulkan Landscape Architecture – Switzerland


Keywords: Woodland Park, Forest Laboratory, Airport Park, Processual Design, Forestry Laws vs. Recreation

In 2017 Studio Vulkan won an international competition for the new park at Zurich Airport, in which the transformation of the 80’000m2 existing landscape fragment choreographs the strict laws of natural and woodland protection as central design elements of the park. The airport is currently being catapulted to one of the most dynamic and dense sites of Switzerland, with the new 180,000 m2 multi-complex Circle building from Japanese architect Yamamoto surrounding the humble hill, ironically setting it up as a place of contemplation for potential thousands of daily visitors and employees.

In Switzerland the project is seen as a pioneer in the city forest trend, sussing out freedom for recreational spaces within strict forestry laws. In the face of rapid densification on the urban fringe the central question of the winning design is the compatibility of recreation, woodlands and natural protection. Our answer lies in the choreography of the site’s inherent characteristics to become a strongly atmospheric experience of the complex, contemporary urban landscape. The hill, a glacier moraine, has been transformed over the years by layerings of excavation material and artificially implanted ecological measures to form a kind of wedding cake of artificially natural landscapes. The design searches to express this strange compilation of and dialogue between urban and landscape elements. Within this design narrative the existing woodland, planted in 1980, is a young, dense and inaccessible, monotone thicket. Newly, the woods must become a multi-tasker, being redefined to offer rich experiences in a process-oriented transformation over time.

Anders Busse Nielsen, founder of the Swedish Waldlabor (forest laboratory) and already aboard in the competition team, is project consultant. The transformation of the woods through “creative management” is now guided by our “forest team” of biologists, governmental and private foresters and landscape architects. Radically new for the Canton of Zurich are measures such as the conversion from woodland to “open woodland”, allowing grass as ground cover, sowing perennials in the woods or allowing chosen solitary trees to unfold in their natural, poetic form.

The lecture will describe the analysis of this heterogeneous site, its forest challenges, goals and concrete measures to integrate recreation, imagination, ecology and forest practice construction.

Presentation: link