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Triemli-Tower, Triemli-Turm, Esther + Rudolf Guyer, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on

Triemli Tower

Picture of Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Looking like a battered and bruised dropout from a frosty science-fiction future, this brutalist monolith leaves no-one cold.

Unapologetically bold and brute, Triemli is absolute in its refusal to please. The 43-metre tower deliberately turns its backside on the city and gives the finger to aesthetic conventions. Of all the early Zurich brutes, it is the most faithful to what the influential British design and architecture critic Reyner Banham defined as brutalist qualities: ‘What characterises the New Brutalism is precisely its brutality, its je-ne-m’en-foutisme, its bloody-mindedness.’

The concrete tower cast a solitary figure in a city still clinging to cottage-sized architectural aspirations. From the outset, Triemli gained its fair share of detractors. Fearing a “Manhattanisation” of Zurich, Tages-Anzeiger newspaper set the tone in 1957 with the headline “Alarm at Triemli”. As recently as August 2018, the tower was voted the “ugliest building in Switzerland” by the readers of the country’s most popular freesheet. Ironically, much of the perceived “ugliness” is the result of an exceptionally bungled renovation in 2013, which left large parts of the façade splattered in ill-matching grey protective paint.
The residents themselves appreciate their compact, but well-cut flats and design details: the sliding doors or the fact each room has its own balcony with sweeping views across the city and the wall of trees of adjacent Uetliberg mountain. Rent is affordable and access to both nature and the city centre is easy and close. Frustratingly for some, it has protected status, so Triemli Tower is here to stay.

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

Sentier des Toblerones, Toblerone Trail, Canton Vaud, Swiss WWII anti-tank fortification line, built 1939-1944 © Karin Bürki. Explore more on
Goetheanum, Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 1924-1928, Swiss Brutalism, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on
Brunnadern, Residential Buildings, Atelier 5, Bern 1970, Brutalism © HEARTBRUT / Karin Bürki
St John's Church, St.Johanneskirche, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on