Developing the Oberhauserriet marshland the area since renamed Glattpark is one of the city of Opfikons most important projects. The competition for the parks design in 200102 was preceded by a very successful neighbourhood planning process that began in the 1990s and was conducted in close cooperation with landowners. The basic idea of enhancing the residential and commercial development by means of a large park with a sizeable area of water was set out early in the statutory planning process. The park and its lake represent a core feature of the local plan and are the green lung of the new district.
The international competition, which was won by the Berlin-based Kiefer architects office, marked a milestone in the planning process. The winning projects simplicity and clearly legible basic concept won over the expert jury. It restricted itself to three main structuring elements: the urban edge, the technology/forest archipelago and the bridgeheads; these are meticulously designed (each in itself and all in combination) but leave open everything that is not decisive for the overall appearance and overall function. With a welcome less is more approach the project leaves an open empty space in the middle of the park that permits a wide range of different uses for leisure-seekers and through its simplicity offers a huge variety of configuration options.
The concept convinced the decision-makers. As preparations and construction work progressed, those directly involved became more enthusiastic about our unconventional park. In December 2006, after 18 months of building work, the park was ready to open to the public. It will, however, be several years before the inevitable scars in the landscape have healed, the grass is green, the trees have grown to full height and the park landscape has matured. Only then will we finally be able to judge the true value of the new park. This new project presented us with a unique urban development opportunity, and we already have clear confirmation that we were right not to have settled for something average.
Opfikon City Council is convinced that the park will in all respects fulfil the identificatory function that was planned from the outset, and looks forward with anticipation to the coming developments, with respect both to the park and to the new city district that is arising beside it. We are convinced that this high-quality public space will represent a decisive locational advantage and provide a good address for residents and local firms. The groundwork has been laid for positive developments and for this we owe our heartfelt thanks to all involved in creating the park.
Walter Epli, Head of Construction, City of Opfikon
The city of Opfikon is located in the Glattal valley directly between Zurich-Kloten Airport and the city of Zurich. Of historical importance are the settlements of Opfikon and Oberhausen (later also Glattbrugg), which were merged in 1919 to create the municipality of Opfikon. Glattbruggs strong growth during the twentieth century largely overshadowed the name of Oberhausen, and today Glattbrugg is the best-known district due to its numerous service businesses.
In 1910 there were still less than one thousand people living in the 5.6 square kilometre municipality of Opfikon. By 1950 the population had trebled, and since 1990 it has fluctuated around the twelve thousand mark. In the years to come, development of the new Glattpark district will create room for another 6,500 residents.
The citys closeness to Zurich and to the airport favours commerce and service industries. Opfikons superb transport connections with two motorways, five cantonal roads, two local railway lines and various regional and local bus routes have encouraged several major international corporations to set up operations in Opfikon. Accessibility will further improve at the end of 2008 when the new Glattalbahn tram link is built. There are already more than one thousand companies providing sixteen thousand jobs in Opfikon, with about seven thousand new jobs due to be created in Glattpark over the next few years.
The new district will be built in a former reed-marsh area. For many generations the problematic building land and the high water table discouraged building in the Oberhauserriet area. Since the area was first settled in the Middle Ages, the low-lying Oberhauserriet marsh formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age was used primarily as fen meadows. The peasants grazed their cattle there and cut the reeds for winter fodder and bedding. Not until the River Glatt was deepened in the nineteenth century and land improvement carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century did it become possible to use the marshland for intensive agriculture. The second land improvement during the Second World War led to a land consolidation that was to leave its mark on the appearance of the landscape for many years.
During this long period the Oberhauserriet marshland attracted little public attention due to its peripheral location and after drainage existed as a largely forgotten zone between the growing metropolis of Zurich and the suburban belt. During the mid-twentieth century the increasing expansion of Zurich led to pressure to locate public buildings that required a great deal of space in this undeveloped area. For example, a sewage works, a civil defence centre, an electricity substation, a waste incineration plant, asylum seekers hostels, sports facilities and similar projects were built in this no-mans land. Other projects such as an abattoir, a port and an underground railway depot and repair shop were fortunately never realised.
As the supply of building land close to the centre grew ever tighter, the pressure to build on the constructionally inferior marshland grew. In view of the superb transport situation and the closeness to Zurich and the airport, it is astonishing that an area of approximately one hundred hectares in Zurichs inner suburban belt remained almost undeveloped until just a couple of years ago.
In 1952 the Oberhauserriet district was defined as building land in the first zoned plan of the city of Opfikon. The launch of the neighbourhood planning process in 1957 then saw the start of a 43-year-long planning phase that at times outdated itself due to changes in the spirit of the times. The original intention was to create a concentrated area accommodating around 15,000 jobs. By the late 1980s, local opinion became increasingly opposed to any building work at all on the area. The fears of a problem-fraught settlement development and anticipation of undesired traffic intensity eventually led to a radical rethink as regards the planning.
The new approach behind the second neighbourhood planning process (initiated in 1992) comprises a variety of specific environment-oriented factors that are ultimately reflected in the building and usage regulations. The fundamental concern as regards the development of the 67-hectare construction area was to minimise the volume of traffic. Reducing the local workforce and creating residential space served the objective of keeping commuter traffic to a minimum by wherever possible accommodating workers directly in the neighbourhood. Another factor in the districts development is the firm focus on public transportation. The district is to be given three stops on the Glattalbahn tram network. At the same time, local car/truck traffic was reduced by both severely limiting the number of parking spaces and by concentrating commuter parking in two car parks positioned on the edge of the district. The dense network of cycle lanes and pedestrian paths as well as sizeable open-space areas round off the circulation plan. Another factor considered to be progressive is the provision of district heating, which minimises the use of fossil fuels and thereby makes a contribution to reducing climate warming.
In order to achieve the desired mix of residential and working space, three different construction areas were identified with different densities and residential elements. While the noise-polluted airport feeder road is designed as a 100% services area, the sheltered eastern part of the district features a dedicated residential area.
Key figures (table): No. of storeys Building height Utilisation factor
Service sector 7 25.0 m 168-240%
Mixed use 6 20.0 m 168%
Residential 5 16.5 m 96%
50% owned by the city of Zurich, 6% owned by the city of Opfikon, the remainder owned by 21 private landowners.
Another further cornerstone of the construction concept is the concentration of building activity on the western section of what was formerly called Oberhauserriet. The provision and distribution of usable space as permitted by local planning stipulations saw on the one hand the creation of an urban and intensively developed area in the western section. In the eastern section, meanwhile, a 120,000 m2 no-building zone was assigned for a park area.
In urban planning terms, the complete reconstruction of an entire district provides a unique opportunity to realise a high-quality development of public space. The quality of the spatial configuration and circulation was a major factor from the start of the neighbourhood planning process. A survey conducted during the planning of the infrastructure showed the measures with which the desired quality could be achieved. In September 2001, after a planning process of almost 50 years, the groundbreaking finally took place for the infrastructure.
For the duration of the long planning phrase, the development area was designated Oberhauserriet. While this name might be appropriate to designate agricultural land (-riet meaning reed/marsh), it was no longer sufficient for a new municipal district with an urban character. In 2001, the Opfikon city council renamed the district Glattpark a choice that both expressed the local connection to Opfikon while at the same time reflecting a cosmopolitan outlook. This approach is reinforced in the naming system for streets and squares in Glattpark, all of which bear the names of pioneers of aviation and their machines.
Park and Lake (2 Seiten) 1921
The open space freed up by the concentration of land use provided the option of creating a by urban standards large recreational area in the immediate vicinity of the areas accommodating commuter workplaces; as well as serving the future residents of the Glattpark district, this makes a crucial contribution to the quality of life in this intensively developed area for all people who live and work in the vicinity.
The preliminary project developed within the framework of the neighbourhood planning process foresaw the construction of a nature park. The preliminary project centred on an approx. three-meter deep lake fed primarily from groundwater and surface water, as part of the recreation area. The natural-style lake was to be surrounded by a park area comprising a central rest and recreation zone for the neighbourhood. The material removed to create the lake basin was subsequently used to create an approx. 10-meter high noise barrier along the highway on the north side. At the same time, the lake served as a drainage facility that absorbs the surface water from the construction area for retention.
The 23 owners of the land covered by the plan were persuaded in the course of the planning process of the benefits of the new building concept; they handed over the approx. 12.4-hectare park area to the city of Opfikon at no cost. In return, the Opfikon authorities declared their willingness to manage the construction, maintenance and management of the park area.
The significant potential of this open space and the resulting opportunities for the new district were recognised by the Opfikon authorities at an early stage. For this reason, the implementation planning amounted to more than simply realising the preliminary lake project already present in the neighbourhood development plan. Together with the city of Zurich, the canton of Zurich and the relevant landowners, the city of Opfikon organised a public international project competition.
Competition (3 Seiten) 2783
The competition was launched by the organisers in the summer of 2001 in order to produce ideas and projects for the creation of a regional park area in Oberhauserriet. A further objective was to define venues for a variety of activities and temporary exhibitions. The complex task was rounded off with proposals calling for the revitalisation of the River Glatt and for integrative links to the existing and planned adjacent settlements of Opfikon and Zurich.
The primary development goal of the competition was to give the new district a strong identity in the shape of the park. The no-mans-land between Opfikon and Zurich was to be turned into a piece of attractive urban landscape, with the park giving the new district a new potential for integration. As a public space, the park was to fulfil the stipulated requirements covering both everyday use and occasional special events, smaller-scale activities such as concerts, festivals etc. as well as temporary exhibitions. Furthermore, the competition organisers expected the landscape design to provide sufficient scope for temporary uses while leaving open scope for future changes in terms of usage. The determination, scrutinisation, demarcation and correct configuration of the required infrastructure facilities and usable areas were, like the effective integration of the required sports and recreation facilities, an integral part of the task at hand.
The competition perimeter encompassed not only the actual park area but also the neighbouring municipal areas of Zurich and Opfikon. This enabled an ideal integration into the surrounding settlement areas. The active approach to the dynamic peripheral and transitional situations was likewise a central element of the task.
In its report in April 2002 report, the jury concluded "that the standard of work submitted, especially taking into account the requisite conditions, is generally very high. The procedure based on prequalification was worthwhile. The process is an example of how to develop public space. The proposals included very different strategies for developing the location." The winning project, "Agglos Traum", was singled out by the jury report "by a clear basic approach that is flexible and divisible for a variety of uses, and by a very interesting and character-lending configuration of the water area. The realisation costs are somewhat higher, primarily due to the complexities involved in designing the city edge; this is in part compensated by the careful interventions in the technology/forest archipelago and, above all, due to the unchanged middle".
Based on the preliminary project for the park and lake originally drawn up in connection with the neighbourhood planning process, the costs were at the time estimated at CHF 6.9m (approx. 4.3m). These costs would have been covered by the private landowners as development costs.
This cost estimate was also defined as a target in the competition. The winning "Agglos Traum" project in its original form would have resulted in expenses totalling around CHF 24m (approx. 15m) and would hardly have been possible to fund. The competition concept therefore had to be optimised and rationalised in several stages in order to stay within the pragmatic target of CHF 14.5m (approx. 9m). The city of Opfikon recognised in principle the added value of the competition project vis-à-vis the original park plan and showed its willingness to cover a part of the outlays. Multiple orders and quality improvements meant that the planned costs eventually increased in the course of the building project to CHF 16.5m (approx. 10.3m).
An agreement was eventually made with the landowners that set down their contribution as a lump-sum of CHF 10.0m. The remaining CHF 6.5m (approx. 4.1m) were approved by a vote at the city council of Opfikon in September 2004, thereby securing the required CHF 16.5m (approx. 10.3m) for the construction of "Agglos Traum".
It soon became apparent during the implementation planning stage that the many budget cuts had already used up much of the potential room for optimisation as regards the project. In addition, the public invitation for bids made it impossible to win any further financial leeway. Despite strict cost management, it became evident after half the construction time that costs were likely to rise by around 10%, which could no longer be offset by further project rationalisation. There were various reasons for the cost increase: the geologically challenging building ground (a former marshland) was a major factor in the available credit limit being exceeded.
Despite more substantial curtailments to the park project, e.g. reductions in the scope of the concreted areas, at the end there remained a funding deficit of around CHF 1.0m (approx. 0.6m), which was to be covered by a supplementary credit. The total costs for the Opfikerpark as such amount to around CHF 17.5m (approx. 11m).
These costs do not include expenses for the new soccer pitch on the edge of the Opfikerpark. The settlement-sensitive building ground and the provision of an artificial pitch saw these expenses amount to a further CHF 2.9m (approx. 1.8m), bringing overall investments in the extended park perimeter to around CHF 20m (approx. 12.5m).
Planning and implementation
Interesting debates repeatedly surfaced during the project development due to the balancing of design costs technical realisation security. That which is important on the design front does not necessarily satisfy technical requirements as well. Likewise, technical standard solutions often fell short of design-related expectations. The situation was made more difficult by planners and owners not initially always speaking the same language. In one case "technocratic", in the other "creative". In one case "Switzerland", in the other "Germany".
This conflict potential was recognised at an early stage; the roles were divided up accordingly. The clients limited their input to examining whether the planned project components were acceptable in both technical, financial and maintenance terms. On design-related issues, however, decisions were left to the planning group. The utilisation of their respective strengths enabled most of the various objectives to be taken into account. Within this context, the mutual "language courses" were very fruitful.
Above all, it was the legal conditions concerning the lake with respect to liability issues that often influenced the solution to design-related questions. Example: while the banks of natural lakes do not feature safety barriers, this did not apply in the case of the Opfikerpark project. The artificial character of this lake meant that all possible precautions had to be taken to ensure that visitors could not accidentally fall into the water.
A pragmatic solution from a users perspective soon revealed the essential points that called for action: the direct proximity of the settlements to the new lake required measures that would completely eliminate the latent danger of small children drowning. The special form of balustrades and the flat shoreline design incorporating a sandy beach or the arrangement of reed islands along the embankment were all designed in accordance with the safety issues. Expert support from the accident-prevention advice centre made it possible to examine the ideas of the planners and clients with "users eyes" and to recognise potential safety-related problems. Creative design approaches ultimately served to take care of all safety concerns, allowing the park and lake to be used by the population without danger.