Zollhaus housing and commerce


Areal Zollstrasse West, 8005 Zürich

Type of contract

Competition, 2015


Kalkbreite cooperative

The Kalkbreite cooperative’s second housing project as be built on the Zollstrasse West site in Zurich’s Kreis 5. The idea behind the Zollhaus was that it should be a residential and commercial building with a broad mix of uses that is committed to sustainability in all dimensions. In a participatory process, the future users established the guiding principle, that “a city is only a city if there is room for everyone in it” and wrote a brief based on this. The programme of the architectural competition was partly published in the form of a short story, to which Bollhalder Walser Architektur responded with another short story: More

A day in the Zollhaus. Marcella (24-year-old, architecture student and newly in love) dashes down the stairs from the 5th floor to the ground floor, where she jumps onto her bike. It’s just before 7am and actually you shouldn’t ride the bike here. But Marcella loves to whiz through the deserted Rue Interieure of the Zollhaus in the morning and jet through the sliding doors of the entrance hall into sleepy Kreis 4. She has to be at the lecture at 7.35 a.m. on the dot, and Marcella is – like every other morning – late...
Tom (41 years old, artist and bon vivant) meets Marcella as she is leaving the Zollhaus in a hurry. Laughing, he calls after her that this is a pedestrian zone. Tom is one of the good souls of the Zollhaus. He helps where he can, and does so with incredible passion. Tom works part-time in a start-up company that has taken a lease a few floors in the Zollhaus. This morning he is helping out in the cultural restaurant, where a children’s birthday party is going to take place at 9 am. In the theatre hall, the children have been setting up a self-proclaimed ghost train since last night. “Until this is all clean again...” he thinks with a grin as he strolls up the stairs of the entrance hall.
Erna (64 years old, retired accountant and passionate hobby gardener) is walking in high spirits under the wild trees towards Langstrasse. Before that, she enjoyed a long breakfast on the Gleisterrasse with her flatmates. She lives in the building with the small apartments, which has a shared garden kitchen for the flatmates. Erna is already a little excited; at 11 am her eldest brother and his wife arrive at the Zollhaus by TGV from Paris. She waits for the couple in the café on Zollstrasse. After the two have unloaded their luggage in their room in the guesthouse, they go together to the large roof terrace. There Erna shows them her vegetable beds, where numerous lovingly grown plants are flourishing. Afterwards, the three of them cook a delicious soup together from the freshly harvested herbs in the communal kitchen of the Zollhaus.
Yannik (7 years old, he knows every known and unknown corner of the Zollhaus) is happy that Erna has cooked his favourite soup today. He has just come home from school to the Zollhaus and wants to go straight back out to the Gleisterrasse, where his friends are already waiting for him. His mother is away for two days, so he enjoys his afternoon off twice as much. Unfortunately, it starts to rain shortly after 1 pm, so Yannik and his friends quickly leave for the Rue Interieure. There, the children have set up a ping-pong table under a skylight, which is now used almost daily. Unfortunately, by 2 pm he already has to be back on the 3rd floor for piano lessons. There, some friendly families have rented an empty room right next to their cluster apartment and set up a music room. Today, Yannik is not in the mood at all and his gaze wanders thoughtfully over the track field again and again. There really is no train whose name he does not know. This is the realisation of his third piano lesson.
On his way back to his playmates, Yannik meets Marcella, who is parking her bike next to the central laundromat. He knows her well; she is his neighbour and Marcella’s shared apartment shares the loggia with the large apartment where Yannik lives.
Marcella has to hurry; she was supposed to start her part-time job at the Zollhaus-Bäckerei at 3 pm – and she is late again. Her thoughts, on the other hand, are already completely devoted to the end of the day: she promised her new boyfriend, an exchange student from Canada, a lesson in German that evening. Fortunately, Henrick has now been able to move into a temporary apartment right next to her 5-person apartment. In the long run, it would really have become too much for her to share her room with him all the time. Actually, Marcella would also take part in Tom’s Zollhaus theatre group today, but for once she has to pass. After all, she will meet him later on the roof terrace at the barbecue...
Erna has to send her guests off on their own to explore in the afternoon, because today she has her voluntary assignment at the Zollhaus day-care centre. She helps out there once a week and plays “Mikado” with the children.
Tom, on the other hand, is glad when he can finally rest for an hour around 5 pm. He moves to the top floor of the head building, where he lives in one of the legendary hall apartments of the Zollhaus. Here, together with ten like-minded people, Tom was able to make his own world. At the beginning, the hall was only equipped with three wet-rooms and a kitchen. After weeks of DIY, they have now built their own ingenious large co-housing community. They have distilled numerous small chambers and some large niches out of the 3-m-high hall – and in the process created a play world for the children with three-storey bunk beds and their own “campsite”. Simply perfect.
Around 6 pm, Tom makes his way to the theatre hall, where the rehearsal will begin in a few minutes. He still has a few things to prepare. Erna, on the other hand, has retired to her one-room apartment where she wants to read the newspaper in peace before the barbecue on the roof terrace begins.
At 7.30 pm it slowly gets dark over Kreis 4. In the last evening light, the Intercity trains glide over the seemingly endless, glistening track field into the night towards Aarau, Basel, Bern. Erna and Tom stand at the railing for a long time, gazing into the distance. Now Marcella joins them with her Henrick. The two can hardly let go of each other.
The Zollhaus residents’ monthly barbecue is already in full swing when the four of them mingle with the other people again. They toast to an unforgettable summer at the Zollhaus with the homemade elderberry wine...
P.S.: Little Yannik seizes the opportunity and plays tag from loggia to loggia with his best friends, because once again no one has closed the doors. The children have the whole 3.5-family giant apartment to themselves tonight, as everyone is partying on the roof terrace. Only two hours later, tired and overjoyed, he falls asleep in his “train” made of cardboard boxes.

Ground floor plan with a terrace towards railway tracks
A large group apartment
Ground floor plan towards Langstrasse
A large group apartment
Typical floor plan of apartments
South west elevation
South west elevation
A typical apartment
A small apartment
North east elevation
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