What if the Mayans had built a space station on Mars? But got angered by the Americans on the moon. A plan was made. They precision dropped a pyramid-shaped monolith in Zurich’s leavy Seefeld neighbourhood, within walking distance to Pavillon Le Corbusier and Lake Zurich
It may well look like a futurist temple dedicated to an ancient deity, but Ferro House’s extraterrestrial looks are really all about the art of making a virtue out of necessity. Commissioned by Swedish metal company ‘Ferrolegeringar AG’, the business building had to adhere to strict building regulations stipulating higher floors to be scaled back. Architect Justus Dahinden came up with a pyramid shape clad in Cor-Ten steel – a nod to his client’s line of business. The material’s signature patina of rich, brownish red is the result of quick oxidising. One of the biggest fans was artist Richard Serra, who used the rust effect widely for his monumental land art. During the seventies, Cor-Ten was also popular in corporate architecture. Back to The Pyramid: the addition of copper-tinted protective glass windows completed its striking tone on tone effect.
Originally, two luxury maisonettes comprised the top tier. The monthly rent for the five bedrooms and sweeping lake views was 3000 Swiss francs (roughly 9000 CHF in today’s money). Now a private clinic, The Pyramid at The Lake suits patients who like to wake up from elective surgery in a Dynasty-inspired room in plenty of beige.
And what has Ferro Haus got to do with brutalism? Technically speaking, not very much. But imagine it had been built in concrete – it would have ticked all the boxes. So we declare it a de facto comrade in spirit and letter.
Never the go-to choice for designing a functional building, Justus Dahinden was an ‘urbanotopian’ architect who floated above the restrictive dogmas of postwar modernism. Both a man of faith and an avid believer in ’function follows form’, Dahinden was on a mission to reconnect architecture with the spiritual and social essence of humans. His designs seek to strike an ideal balance between radical design and sound method. The Federal Institute of Technology Zurich graduate’s early output was informed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonio Gaudi and sacral architecture. In the ‘60s, he was one of the first to embrace and promote the theories and works of his avant-garde contemporaries Archigram and the Japanese metabolists. Notable works include ‘Schwabylon’ leisure-city in Munich, Rigi Haus in Weggis and Trigon village in Zurich Hottingen. Justus Dahinden passed away in spring 2020.