Adaption Room Acoustics – Auditorium, University of Zurich

In the course of modernizing the audio-visual equipment at the University of Zurich, the technology of the 20-year-old underground auditorium in the Karl Moser building was renewed. At the same time, some of the flat wall panels were replaced with slotted ones, thereby again improving the room’s acoustics. The artist Adrian Schiess, who had developed the initial colour concept for the auditorium, adapted the scheme for the new panels. The finish was coated with a translucent, silvery chrome paint, augmenting the mirroring effect and the festive appeal. The colour depth and reflections vary depending on the observer’s position in the hall.

The work was completed by the beginning of the autumn term 2021. The next step will be to refurbish the shallow pool above the auditorium, which is an integral part of the whole project. The inside moulding and colour coating will be renewed.

Location Zurich, Switzerland

Programme Auditorium, 500 seats

Commission 2020

Planning/Construction 2020–2021

Client University of Zurich

Team G/G Annette Gigon / Mike Guyer Architekten (künstlerische Oberbauleitung) Collaborators: Auditorium: Pieter Rabijns
Water basin: Stefan Thommen

Contact architects Burkhard & Lüthi Architektur GmbH, Zurich

Cost Planning/Scheduling Bühler & Oettli AG, Zurich

Acoustical Engineer Applied Acoustics GmbH, Gelterkinden

Colours Adrian Schiess, Zurich

Other Paint treatment: Paints and Arts Rolf Pfenninger, Schlieren

Photos © Seraina Wirz

Auditorium, University of Zurich

A new, large auditorium that seats 500 people was constructed under the terrace on the valley side of the university building designed by Karl Moser in 1913/1914. The space serves both as a new auditorium and a second assembly hall. On weekends and during semester breaks it can also function as a conference hall for third-party rentals.

The auditorium is accessed via the former sculpture gallery on the ground floor. This space was previously used as an institute library and can be directly approached from outside and inside the university. The open gallery now functions as a lobby, with stairs in the alcoves of the vaulting leading down to the auditorium. Another wheelchair-accessible entrance and an elevator are located on the cafeteria side of the building.

Inside the auditorium the walls and ceiling are faced with colored panels, analogous to the spirit of the original interior design of the Moser building. The panels provide acoustic absorption and cladding for ventilation and electrical services. The artist Adrian Schiess designed the color scheme for the auditorium, consisting of light and dark pink, as well as tones of light blue and gray-green. To emphasize the festive quality of the space, the glass of the interpreters’ booths is printed with golden reflective patterns.

A skylight above the white projection wall provides the space underneath with daylight. Outside, both the raised skylight and a pool centered on the terrace indicate the presence of the auditorium below. The strong color of the basin contradicts conventional expectations of a natural green, which is used for the ponds in the neighboring gardens of the university. The basin with its reflective surface and artificial color resembles an independent, horizontal sculpture.

The walls facing the Künstlergasse consist of concrete poured in successive layers of various hues, from dark to light, which also references the ‘spacecontaining’ nature of the base. The top layers of the wall are only faintly pigmented, and the concrete surface of the terrace and the concrete rim of the basin are left in their natural tone. These thus form a contrast with the pure, strong color of the basin.

Location Zurich, Switzerland

Programme Underground auditorium with 500 seats, projection space, storage and technical spaces
remodelling existing lobby on the ground floor as access to the auditorium; coloured water basin on the terrace above the auditorium hall

Commission 1996

Planning/Construction 1996–2002

Client Building Office of Canton Zurich

Gross Floor Area 2‘545 m2

Team G/G Christian Brunner (Project Manager), Stefan Gasser, Michael Bucher

Site Management Annette Gigon / Mike Guyer Architekten, Zurich
Collaborator: Thomas Hochstrasser

Landscape Architecture Hager Landschaftsarchitektur AG, Zurich

Cost Planning/Scheduling Othmar Brügger, Davos

Structural Engineer SKS Ingenieure AG, Zurich

Colours Adrian Schiess, Zurich and Mouans-Sartoux, France

Photos © Heinrich Helfenstein © Gigon/Guyer