A place for students to develop their ideas

ETH students should have opportunities to realise their ideas. To meet this need, ETH Zurich is building a new centre for student initiatives and entrepreneurial talent at its Hönggerberg campus. The winner of the architectural competition is the EQUILIBRES project designed by ARGE Buchner Bründler Planer / Rapp Architekten.

to meet and interact. The EQUILIBRES building and park-like forecourt. (Visualisation: ARGE Buchner Bründler Planer / Rapp Architekten)"

Construction of the new building, which is specifically for students and entrepreneurial talent, will begin on the Hönggerberg campus in 2024. The new centre will offer modern, versatile office space, multipurpose rooms and workshops for project-based and interdisciplinary collaboration, and accommodate the increasing student numbers as well. Various spaces will allow students to interact.

The concept reflects ETH Zurich’s educational philosophy, which aims not only to give students fundamental expertise but also enable them to develop their own ideas, transform them into projects and thus acquire the key skills they will need in the workplace.

A place that brings projects to life

The new building will bring various student organisations, innovative teaching projects and entrepreneurial initiatives together under one roof. Currently, they are spread out at different locations in central Zurich and on the Hönggerberg campus. These include the student associations VSETH and SOSETH , which will use the structured spaces for their activities and share offices. SOSETH gives students access to digital and photo labs, AV technology and a place to work on projects directly; for example, SOSETH hosts the campus radio station -Radius-, cinema events and photo exhibitions.

The new building will also be home to the « Student Project House », where students can realise their own project ideas, and the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Lab , which will give entrepreneurial talent and Pioneer Fellows a place to develop innovative business ideas, products and services. Certain ETH spin-offs will operate here as well, and special soundproofed workspaces and open-plan offices will be available to meet their needs. The building will also be used by student organisations that promote entrepreneurial activities, such as ETH Juniors and the ETH Entrepreneur Club.

-The new building will offer our students the perfect environment in which to realise their ideas, and is designed to foster their innovative spirit,- says ETH Rector Sarah Springman, who is responsible for education.

- This functional building will certainly help us to create an inspiring innovation ecosystem, where students and prospective entrepreneurs, spin-offs and start-ups will learn from and with each other and shape the future - adds Detlef Günther, Vice President for Research.

EQUILIBRES wins the architectural competition

The winner of the architectural design competition for the new building has been chosen: of the 12 designs submitted by selected general planning teams, a jury picked as the winner the EQUILIBRES project designed by ARGE Buchner Bründler Planer AG / Rapp Architekten AG. The proposals submitted for the competition were judged according to specific criteria for architecture and urban development, functionality and use concept, sustainability and building technology.

EQUILIBRES impressed the jury with its flexible spatial concept, broad range of areas for interaction and activities that promote interdisciplinary exchange, and a thoughtful approach to the surroundings and open space at the Hönggerberg campus. The building also has an air of the innovation that will take place within it. -The winning project impressed the jury for the particular attention it pays to the locational quality of the Hönggerberg campus, while integrating the new building thoughtfully into the future campus development,- says Ulrich Weidmann, Vice President for Infrastructure at ETH Zurich.

A pergola on the roof and a park-like forecourt

The new building, which in typical ETH style will be called HIC , will be situated in the still relatively quiet north-western part of the campus near the Arch_Tech_Lab (HIB) , which opened in 2016 .

A characteristic feature of the EQUILIBRES design is the building’s open atmosphere, which is reflected in a style of architecture that responds to the various surroundings on each side of the building. To the north, the building extends above Eckmann-Weg, so that the free-standing reinforced concrete frame stands out clearly on that side, giving the building a floating appearance. To the east, the ground floor slides over the underground car park of the HIB building.

The overall architectural design of EQUILIBRES is characterised by its solid support structure in the basement that then transitions vertically into a light wood construction. (Visualisation: ARGE Buchner Bründler Planer / Rapp Architekten) The pergola rooftop garden features removable canvas panels and a variety of garden spaces with different sections, planting and water basins. Room with a view: the ground floor is designed specifically for events and social interaction and can be opened up completely for large events. The interior of the building is characterised by its openness, versatility, functionality and use of natural materials. On the lower ground floor, another entrance will lead directly to the Hönggerbergring with delivery access at the side. The new building will be situated in the still relatively quiet north-western part of the campus. (Photo: ETH Zurich / Alessandro Della Bella)

The building’s supporting structure lends it a sense of lightness as it moves upward. The roof features a pergola garden that provides space for interaction and dialogue. Two additional work areas are located along the façade and can also be used for project work, depending on the season, and informal discussions. The planting and water basins add biodiversity to the rooftop garden and are another addition to the many green spaces on the Hönggerberg campus.

The jury appreciated how well the new building will integrate into the development plans for the campus: the open space concept of the ETH Campus Hönggerberg 2040 masterplan envisages numerous green zones in the surrounding areas, linking student activities with the research conducted in the planned adjacent HIN laboratory. The winning team’s proposal includes a park-like area in front of the building’s main entrance, offering a social space that fits well into the current campus layou t.

Sustainable construction and building operations

An important criterion for ETH Zurich’s new building was sustainability : the competition explicitly sought out solutions for resource-conserving, climate-friendly and socially compatible construction. The energy concept of the winning project addresses these criteria through its use of space and dimensions, the choice of materials and use of renewable energy.

Much of the wood will be sourced regionally and rammed earth will be used as a material to help sustainably reduce the use of embodied energy and CO2 emissions in construction, enabling compensation of the use of concrete and steel. To cover as much as possible of the electricity requirements with renewable energy sources, the roof of the new building will be equipped with a photovoltaic system.

The building will also be connected to ETH’s Anergy Grid , which was awarded the Watt d’Or 2020 prize. This grid uses an underground energy storage system, allowing the building to be heated and cooled efficiently, and with reduced CO2 emissions.

Bianca Gasser, Florian Meyer

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