As part of an effort to centralize the University's Law School's facilities, which were dispersed throughout eight different buildings, the Canton of Zurich and the University commissioned Calatrava to prepare a study for an addition of two storeys to a landmarked building's wings and raise the building structure to its original height and to house its administration offices and classrooms. Calatrava's proposal expanded the original project scope and provides a new facility for the law school's distinguished library and rare books collection within the landmarked building.
The original L-shaped building structure was designed in 1908 and the two wings, which did not reach the height of the original structure, were create as a central courtyard in 1930. Instead of obliterating the courtyard under several floor slabs, Calatrava proposed an 'densification' approach to redefine the courtyard as an atrium by creating a supplemental structure within the original volume. Calatrava devised an hydraulically movable pleated curtain of collapsible blades to provide the reading rooms with controlled natural light from the ceiling, which also function as acoustic tiles. Ultimately, Calatrava also provided his artworks for the building including a nine feet high bronze sculpture installed in the lobby.
First, he completes by adding a two-story of lightweight steel structure to the lower wings of the existing building. The steel columns and beams form shelves that support the floor plates and allows the new structure to float over the existing building. The curtain-wall facade is characterized by thin, elegant window profiles and horizontal sunshades. Calatrava then conceived the library as a stack of six oval rings, hung as an independent structure within the rectangular courtyard. This cascade of galleries is supported from the courtyard's walls at four points, leaving the facade of the building's courtyard virtually untouched. Reading rooms line the oval rings and each working area has a desk built into the parapet of the oval's inner edge. Facing inward, readers oversee 20 meters (66 feet) across the void at the core of the oval rings when looking upwards.
The rings have a surface of narrow, L-shaped pieces of maple fit closely together, giving a hint of luxury to an otherwise utilitarian building. In addition, recesses between the wood pieces absorb sound and keeps the library quiet. Working areas are arranged to shield readers from the sight its neighbors in order to keep reading experience deeply private and at the same time, the working areas provides direct access to the common space of the book stacks. A domed copper roof over the library and courtyard features a glazed skylight. The choice of copper harmonizes with the materials used in the surrounding buildings, just as the dome's form echoes several nearby cupolas. Thanks to the daylight, natural light penetrates deep into the reading rooms and filters into the corners of the courtyard.
1989 - 1994
- Permanent Honorary Guest (Ständiger Ehrengast)
- ECCS European Steel Design Award 2003