The Hotel “Senator” was built in the 1980s and integrated into a late 19th century perimeter block development in the former industrial district of Zürich-West. It has been converted into the new “Hotel Züri by Fassbind”. Fortunately, it was possible to retain the basic structure of floor slabs and concrete partition walls almost unaltered because a new building would have been smaller, as stipulated by zoning regulations, and would have consumed more embodied energy. The roof and the façades were entirely remodelled. One of the characteristics of the district’s residential and factory buildings are clinker bricks, used as facing bricks or as infill in frame structures. On the hotel façade, they take the form of “intarsia” that are cast in self-supporting concrete elements. All of the fittings and furnishings inside the building, including the bathrooms, were replaced. The inner as well as the outer appearance is marked by contrasting pairs such as day and night, light and dark, lying and standing, restrained material colours and strong spectral colours.
Thus, on the street front dark brown bricks have been embedded in the prefabricated elements of the cladding; in the courtyard the bricks are beige. Differently sized concrete “heads” terminate the vertical elements at the top and the horizontal elements at the sides, illustrating the modular construction. Some of the piers and lintels are entirely of concrete – as is the weighty protective canopy at the entrance. The way in which matrices were used to fix the 4 cm deep clinker bricks in the formwork can be seen in the passageway leading to the courtyard, where the matrices were cast without inserting any bricks.
The generously sized wall openings feature full-height timber and metal windows with frames of solid dark oak. To provide light for the new mansard rooms, the stainless steel roof is pierced alternatingly by dormers and roof windows. Two dormers placed by side by side accentuate each corner of the courtyard wing – and, in the interior, enhance the tent-like corner rooms with a “daylight lantern”.
The built-in furniture in the hotel bedrooms is made of oak, both light and dark. Large mirrors guide guests into the space and expand it, as do the windows that open the rooms towards the city. An upholstered bench can be used as both seating and a luggage stand. Letters woven into the grey-beige carpeting wish guests good day/good night in English, French, Italian and German. Patches of colour on the walls modify the daylight in the rooms and, above all, the artificial lighting consisting of LED wall and floor lamps designed especially for these rooms.
Large lamps and patches of colour also accentuate the hotel corridors and “shorten” them visually. Robust metallic and cement-based panelling protects the walls against trolley suitcases and laundry carts, and carpeting, also with lettering, dampens the sound of footsteps.
At ground level, the lobby, lounge and breakfast area form a spatial continuum with large “show windows” facing Heinrichstrasse and the city. Here the durable flooring consists of cast clinker brick fragments of the same kind as used in the façade. Guests are welcomed at a reception area of oak and black sheet metal, with bench seats extending along the walls and custom-made tables, chairs and pendant lamps.
On Heinrichstrasse a generous forecourt in cast concrete invites guests to take their breakfast outdoors under the semi-shade of the trees. In the courtyard the patchwork of paving materials is augmented by coarse gravel, and large tree planters made of steel rebars give newly planted deciduous trees a chance to take root above the underground parking.