Toni-Areal, Zurich

I am rarely in Zurich and I prefer the countryside and mountains to cities these days. But I like to be in the midst of industrial architecture sometimes, and one of my favourite sites is the former milk processing plant in the industrial area of Pfingstweid. Mainly because of the huge corkscrew ramp leading up to the top of the huge concrete building.

The edifice was completed in 1977 and was, for many years, the largest milk processing plant in Europe. Work was re-located to canton St. Gallen in 2000 and the Zurich cantonal bank bought the building, originally intending to turn it into office space. But the number of (then) empty office blocks nearby changed their mind.

The building stood empty for a long time, before being partially used for nightclubs, events and sporting fixtures. In 2005, a decision was made to convert the building for use by a technical college, but it took six years for legal ramifications to be cleared up.

Alongside a massive investment to improve and re-invigorate the city quarter, improvements to public transport access were made and the former plant was connected to the city centre by its own stop on the number 4 tram line. The existing building was extended with a new tower containing apartments and after a further year’s delay due to building work, the new tenants of the revised building moved in: the Zurich Art School, and branches of the Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts (ZHAW).