Julian Holz

in collaboration with:
Chair of Construction Heritage and Preservation, Prof. Dr. Silke Langenberg, Reto Wasser
Chair of History and Theory of Architecture, Prof. Dr. Maarten Delbeke, Linda Stagni

In the heart of Niederdorf is the house at Spiegelgasse 14, which has a long history dating back to 1357. The house is famous because the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Ul- yanov (1870-1924), better known as “Lenin”, lived in the house from 21 February 1916 to 9 April 1917.

Because of its dilapidation, the house was demolished between 1971 and 1973. Before that, the Monuments Office had placed the façade under protection and ensured that it was rebuilt as much as possible according to the old pattern. It did not do this because the house was considered particularly beautiful or architecturally valuable. The reason was the Cold War: the city did not want to come under too much criticism with the demolished house, as Lenin was strongly revered in the Soviet Union.

This new building created an absurd situation. Visitors think they are seeing the house in which Lenin lived. But since the interior has been completely changed, visitors actu- ally see a house from the 1970s with a façade that looks like one from the 14th century. A commemorative plaque has also been reinstalled, identifying the house as a place to commemorate Lenin’s stay in Zurich. Here, history was more important than architecture. It was not about preserving the architecture, but the history and the myth that was being formed. The façade was seen as a necessary medium of staging to convey and bring to life the story of Lenin at Spiegelgasse 14.

The experience of Lenin’s residence at 14 Spiegelgasse served as a lens and tool to find other places and stories that have the power to influence architecture.

On an 18-hectare site to the east of the garden city housing estates in Schwamendingen, the overall housing estate “am Hirzenbach” was built from 1955 to 1967 according to the concept and overall planning of the city architect Adolf Wasserfallen. Part of this is the high-rise building at Luchswiesenstrasse 220.

In the continuation of the process, the stories and myths of the site were analysed. The high-rise is formative for the spirit of the place - the dream of the car and freedom through mobility. The found future plans of the owners show that they want to realise a vision of living in the green on the site. The world of cars is to be moved to a multi-storey car park. This would also mean that the associated subcultures such as street rap would disappear from the area and be replaced by a green park with its diverse life.

But it is precisely the world of cars that makes the Luchswiesenstraße 220 site so special and full of spirit. Therefore, the project aims to preserve the world of cars and create a new coexistence with the world of the park. Additional structures such as the diner func- tion as commemorative plaques and proclaim the special nature of the car at this location. The architectural redesign of the site unites the myth of the dream of the car and the vision of living in the green to create a new togetherness.