Simon Orga
Pearls of the Furttal: A Network of Open Spaces Reaching Across the Valley

The Furttal as landscape

The Furttal, in the immediate vicinity of the outshining city of Zurich, currently ekes out a thankless existence. Not only is its namegiving stream one of the most polluted watercourses in Switzerland, primarily contaminated by residual agricultural waste, with far-reaching consequences for flora, fauna and groundwater, but although many of Zurich‘s residents swim on the beach at Katzensee in summer and ice skate on the winter ice, most of them cannot pinpoint the Furttal on a map. Nevertheless, the Furttal is considered Zurich‘s hinterland. Nutritionally, it is the city‘s vegetable basket, but at the same time, the sprawling industrial areas and their warehouses also function as a storage chamber. Many things that have no place in the city are temporarily shifted to the Furttal. Even the largest prison in Switzerland, the Pöschwies penal institution, is in the Furttal, just outside Regensdorf. And although a growth of several thousand inhabitants is predicted for the next few years, the Furttal is already characterized by massive through traffic. Here, the Furttal acts as a bypass from the center of Zurich, connecting Zurich North and the Glatttal with the Limmattal in the west. The difficulties of the Furttal. Not only was in the course of time the marshland drained, creating extensive arable land, but also the strong growth of the settlements in the period of the economic miracle after the Second World War and the measures that accompanied it led to the unintentional creation of major hurdles for slow traffic and attributed the car to be the solution. In the end a fragmented patchwork for pedestrians and cyclists remained. As a result of these conditions, public open spaces may exist in the Furttal, but are hardly accessible for non-motorized traffic. Also, some of the schools are only accessible via very busy roads, which makes the way to school a dangerous place for the students. Today, residents counter this problem by traveling even the shortest distances by car to reach any point in the Furttal. This became especially visible during the first year of the Covid Pandemic when cars where regularly stacked close to so called hot-spots.


As we have now seen, all these infrastructures were created to make people‘s lives more comfortable or to improve the economic environment. This may seem successful at first glance, but in lockstep the settlements and thus the people became more and more isolated from the landscape. The goal of this project is nothing less than to give the landscape back to the people of the Furttal. By reconnecting to the immediate landscape in a low-threshold way and connecting the previously isolated open spaces in a network of paths and trails, making it possible for everyone to experience.

Paths to success

The historical road and street network has a clear pattern of longitudinal and transversal connections. In the past these connections corresponded with the social centers, so they also included community life. This changed during the rapid expansion of the economic miracle in the 1960s and 1970s. The historic still enables conectivity, but villages and small communities are social organisms that depend on their communication and relationships. To reach these social nodes, I have flipped the approach and instead of focusing on the centralized logic, I use the edge condition - which can be easily reached from any point – as enablers of communication. The framework I propose is to use and transform existing or complemented trails, roads, and abandoned rail lines in the communities‘ edge condition and the connections between them to create a network that spans the valley and connects the important open spaces. Important for the character of the path is to identify the landscape that is attached to the path. I call this the defining landscape. In other words, since the Furttal is very diverse, the defining landscape forms the identity of the corresponding sector. In this way, a total of six independent circuits or paths are created, which connect the existing open spaces. In addition, unused potentials for open spaces are identified and integrated into the network.