This week our tour through Swiss Utopias takes us to Hunziker Areal in Zürich, part of the “Mehr als Wohne” (or “More than Living”) cooperative movement in the city. The history of the “Mehr als Wohne’ project began in 2007, when the city of Zürich and its housing co-operatives celebrated the centenary of government support for co-operative housing construction using the slogan ‘100 years of more than living’. As part of the festivities, an international competition was organised calling for ideas to shape the future of non-profit residential construction that might help solve Zürich’s inner city housing crisis. Completed in 2015, the Hunziker Areal project occupies a former cement factory in the north of Zurich. The pioneering urban development project offers living space for approximately 1,200 people in 13 energy-efficient buildings and also serves as a working place for around 150 people. The 2000-watt site is a response to the changing living requirements and the shift in social lifestyles. In the 13 buildings, old and new living forms, such as large communal dwellings with private spaces to retreat, are being tried out. Democratic member rights and environmentally sound lifestyles contribute to the social sustainability of the complex.
As part of the ‘More than Living’ movement, Hunziker Areal was created to anticipate the future needs of its community and design buildings and ways of living that meet them. The brief was answered by two young agencies from Zurich, Futurafrosch and Duplex, who joined forces to meet the challenge of creating a city district, as opposed to a mere housing estate. Part of this is due to Switzerland’s rapidly aging population demographics, with one of the highest life expectancies in the world and one of the lowest birth rates. This has led to an increasing population of elderly people, many of whom are single and at risk of living in isolation. Instead of the usual large-scale forms of rows and blocks, the urban planning concept proposes a cluster of smaller detached buildings, their close arrangement forming a system of routes, squares and open spaces with a marked urban character. The tension-filled sequence of the outdoor spaces as well as the public-oriented use of ground floor areas livens up the quarter. Besides the ample provision of a wide variety of common areas, the quarter also requires individual places of retreat. The special characteristic of this project lies exactly between these opposite priorities: security and privacy on the one hand, and varied opportunities to engage in activities of the community on the other.
Like other Swiss cooperatives, Hunziker Areal is built around the principle of “helping people to help themselves”. As part of the ‘More Than Living’ movement, Hunziker Areal aims to create a diverse, integrated community that embraces households and families of all types, and inspires them to engage in civic life and democratic institutions. In building for the future, the movement promotes an ethos of initiative-taking and self-organisation that will enable Switzerland to realise the vision of ‘the 2000 Watt society’ and combat climate change, Promoted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, this would see a reduction of individual energy use to a level that would be supported by the continuous running of a 2,000 watt generator. Average energy use is currently about 5,000 watts per person in Switzerland. The City of Zurich has signed up to a target that would see its citizens meet the 2,000 watt level by 2050. Hunziker has received several awards, including the World Habitat Award in 2017, and has been recognised as a trailblazer for affordable, happy, and sustainable development for the world’s ever-growing urban population.