SWISS LIFE I KPMG HQ – The former office building is situated at Badenerstrasse in central Zurich. The existing building was completed in the early 80s and was in desperate need of being refurbished to adapt the façade construction to current and more efficient energy standards, to improve the overall image of the building as clear volumes in its surrounding, and to house the new KPMG headquarters. The building was stripped down to its bare structure which is kept to retain the building’s zoning privileges. The minimalist design approach emphasizes the existing vertical double columns and expresses the structure’s true appearance to the outside. The highlights are the building extension with a spacious roof terrace, the inner courtyard and the inviting entrances.
Architizer chatted with Patrice Gruner, Founder & CEO at GRUNER&FRIENDS, to learn more about this project.
Architizer: What inspired the initial concept for your design?
Patrice Gruner: A book with a world map inspired me to sketch up the concept for the client. We always try to understand our clients as good as possible to create a concept which represents the clients philosophy. KPMG operates all around the world and every office location has a singular character. By projecting the geographic world map onto the floorplan, the building is divided into two main areas: “Generic Offices” and “Collaboration Spaces.” This was the starting point for our design and created the two different characters for the facade design.
What do you believe is the most unique or ‘standout’ component of the project?
The roof terrace, the courtyard and the entrances are the most unique components. We built an extension between the existing blocks with a roof terrace to have an amazing view over the city. The centrepiece is a new garden courtyard. A round water fountain and four plant cushions, the edges of which are shaped as benches, divide the courtyard into different lounge areas. The use of highly reflective stainless steel façade elements on the ground and penthouse floors symbolizes lightness and transparency towards the more public “Collaboration Spaces”. A mirrored stainless steel fascia architrave marks the transition between these two programs, which occasionally extend to shield the entrances in an inviting gesture.
What was the greatest design challenge you faced during the project, and how did you navigate it?
The building was stripped down to its bare structure which is kept to retain the building’s zoning privileges. The minimalist design approach emphasizes the existing vertical double columns and expresses the structure’s true appearance to the outside. The space between the existing structure and the permitted construction line was very small, only a few centimeters wide. We had to come up with a very efficient and compact facade design and construction. In the end, the thin fiber cement was the perfect solution.
What drove the selection of materials used in the project?
We used only three main materials for the facade. All structural elements are made of concrete or fiber cement, such as the double columns and balustrades. The aluminium panels create big surfaces and the stainless steel elements symbolizes lightness and transparency towards the more public spaces.
What is your favorite detail in the project and why?
The stainless steel entrances with its inviting gesture is our favourite detail. The thin blade and the big wingspan posed a major design and construction challenge.
How have your clients responded to the finished project?
The owner Swiss Life and the user KPMG are very satisfied with the building. We have created a lot of new value for the user and the needs have been met. We can see on social media how much this is appreciated.
How do you believe this project represents you or your firm as a whole?
GRUNER&FRIENDS is an international practice specializing in architecture, urbanism, research and design. This project combines many different fields with each other. Through our careful research the office created a unique concept for this big project. The design process evolves into architecture with distinctive content which adds value to contemporary life.
How do you imagine this project influencing your work in the future?
GRUNER&FRIENDS develops multi-scale projects within a network of international specialists and partners in close cooperation with the clients. For this project we were able to prove that we are capable of mastering such a big project. After that, we received many inquiries for other major projects.
Design Team GRUNER&FRIENDS: Patrice Gruner, Bianca Arciero, Goeff Eberle, Rahul Girish, Thomas Krall, Tizian Gruner
General Contractor: Allreal AG General Planner: Gruner AG Consultants: Aepli Metallbau AG, Gruner AG, Werkhof AG Photography Credits: DANIEL HAGER PHOTOGRAPHY & FILM GmbH
For more on SWISS LIFE I KPMG HQ, please visit the in-depth project page on Architizer.