Herzog & de Meuron are building the new University Children’s Hospital in Zurich. Designed as a small city for children, it is characterized by a comfortable spatial environment for little patients, with a well thought-out use of materials and scale. The choice in this regard went to individually manufactured fiber cement panels from Swisspearl Group.
A small city for children
Herzog & de Meuron are building the new University Children’s Hospital in Zurich. # Part 1: The design cocept
In 2012, it became known that Herzog & de Meuron would be building the new Children’s Hospital in Zurich. The first Zurich building designed by the renowned international firm from Basel is not only the largest children’s hospital in Switzerland at 200 beds; it also exemplifies the importance of architectural design in the health care sector: the holistic concept of a small city for children under one roof is based on the idea that a comfortable spatial environment with well thought-out use of materials is a key factor in the healing process – especially for little patients.
Since its inception, the Children’s Hospital in Zurich-Hottingen, run by the private and charitable Eleonoren Foundation, has been located in Zurich-Hottingen, where it opened in 1874 with 30 beds. To this day, the hospital has been continuously renovated and expanded; the buildings designed by Rudolf Otto Salvisberg in the 1930s and the new buildings by Peter Steiger built between 1953 and 1968 are of particular architectural significance. Because Hottingen is now densely built up, there is no longer space for the urgently needed structural expansion. It was therefore decided to build a completely new building at another location, on the Lengg healthcare campus on the south-western outskirts of the city, directly opposite the Burghölzli Psychiatric Clinic. An exchange of land with the canton was the prerequisite for this “great solution”; the previous properties of the Children’s Hospital are to house the Centre for Dentistry in future.
Holistic and child-friendly
The construction project for the new Children’s Hospital consists of two construction sites: a seven-storey circular building for laboratories, teaching and research is being constructed on the north site, and the actual acute care hospital is located on the south site. The latter has a spreading, horizontal design with only three stories. The longitudinal facades are curved inwards, creating a common esplanade-like forecourt across Lengstrasse towards the Burghölzli, while the building opens up towards the south towards the Hospital Garden.
The architects deliberately sought and found an alternative to the “hospital factories” of the 1970s with their purely functional logic. To be sure, economy and functionality are important criteria in the construction of a new hospital, but the jury explicitly emphasized the esthetic qualities and child-friendliness of the design by Herzog & de Meuron in their 2012 report. The renowned architects were able to build on their deservedly highly praised project for the Rehab Clinic in Basel (1998-2002).
A series of round and rectangular courtyards divides the interior. These are connected by an access route that runs longitudinally through the building. The architects like to compare it to the Niederdorfstrasse and its sequence of wide spaces and narrow streets. Operating rooms, intensive care units and treatment rooms, as well as a reception area and restaurant are located on the first floor, while other parts of the outpatient clinics, laboratories and offices are on the second floor. Patient rooms with one or two beds are all located on the second floor. Each of them is designed as a small house with its own roof, facing outwards and surrounding the space in a ring design.
Use of material and scaling
Already with the first design, the architects had opted for wood as the key element of the Hospital building. In the course of further planning, fiber cement panels from Swisspearl Group were added as a material – both for the façades of the patients’ rooms and for the courtyards and parts of the interior construction. The mineral and natural structure of fiber cement, which harmonizes well with wood and concrete, its robustness, as well as the great flexibility in terms of surface structure and color were decisive factors in the choice of material. Stephan Lüthi, Sales Manager centrally at Eternit (Schweiz) AG, recalls the first meeting at Herzog & de Meuron that took place in spring 2016. The dialogue developed intensively: in a good 30 additional meetings, a special solution was developed step-by-step with the experts from Swisspearl Group, targeted for the Children’s Hospital.
The architects wanted the panels to be coated as brightly as possible to achieve maximum reflection of light in the atriums. The surface structure also presented a special challenge, for which six different variants were tested. For this purpose, individual polyethylene matrices had to be produced in each case, which were placed on the blanks of the fiber cement panels before pressing. In the end, the decision was made to use an embossed vertical wave pattern, repeated in a fives and with a depth of 1.5 millimeters. A total of 8000 square meters of fiber cement panels from Swisspearl Group will be used in the construction of the new Children’s Hospital.
NICE TO KNOW
University Children’s Hospital
Swisspearl Largo Carat Onyx with special coating
Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland