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Hardbruecke Bridge, Zurich, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on Heartbrut.com

Hardbrücke

Picture of Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

We heart Hardbrücke: How this colossal 70s bridge went from unloved super-polluter to urban cool hotspot

In 1973, Zurich’s industrial quarter was a grey and dreary place. The newly inaugurated Hardbrücke bridge brought additional noise and exhaust fumes. A typical product of the car-first urban planning of the boom years, the concrete colossus ate its way like a gigantic wedge from Hardplatz in district 4 over the railway tracks right through the industrial district to Wipkingerplatz. Worse still, the universally unloved air polluter contributed significantly to cementing the negative image of concrete in people’s minds. In the wake of the oil crisis and the emerging environmental movement, the bridge quickly fell into disrepute.

Today, the redesigned bridge is a much-photographed backdrop in a hip neighbourhood. It not only boasts a sleek silhouette and elegantly curved stairs, but also plenty of space for a tram line, pedestrians and cyclists. And yet. Now in its fifties, Hardbrücke has lost none of its talent for courting controversy, regularly pitting motorists against climate activists.

The regeneration of the industrial quarter into a nightlife destination this side of the millennium and a major bridge makeover put the bad rep to bed for good. Today, the area between Hardbrücke station, Prime Tower and Frau Gerold’s Garten is the go-to location for ad people and tv crews to stage ‘urban cool’. And why not. It is, after all, one of the very few places in Switzerland that can can hold up its own against London or New York. The coming together of post-industrial regeneration, club culture and urban gardening taps brilliantly into the zeitgeist and proves a perennially popular hangout for hipsters, bankers and Gen Airbnb.
The former exhaust fumes guzzler has even become something of a pilgrimage location, with thousands of city cyclists regularly taking to it in the ‘Ride for your Rights’ rallies across the city. On 8 October 2022, climate activists from Renovate Switzerland stuck themselves to the bridge, bringing traffic to a complete standstill for a few hours. Whether you liked their action or not, it was an exciting glimpse of what a car-free bridge would look like.

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

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St John's Church, St.Johanneskirche, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on Heartbrut.com