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Ferro Haus, Pyramide am See, Justus Dahinden, © Karin Buerki/Heartbrut. Explore more on Heartbrut.com

Pyramide au bord du lac (Maison Ferro)

Picture of Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Texte et photographie : Karin Bürki

What if the Mayans had built a space station on Mars and precisely dropped a pyramid-shaped monolith within walking distance of the Le Corbusier Pavilion and Lake Zurich in the leafy Seefeld district?

It might be mistaken for a futuristic temple to an ancient deity, but the Pyramid’s extraterrestrial appearance is in fact down to the art of making a virtue out of necessity. The commercial building, commissioned by Swedish metal company Ferrolegeringar AG, had to comply with strict building regulations that required the upper floors to be set back. So architect Justus Dahinden came up with the now iconic pyramid shape. The Cor-Ten steel cladding is a nod to his client’s business.

Originally, Ferro House boasted two luxury maisonettes at the top. The monthly rent for one of the five-bedroom apartments with sweeping lake views was 3000 Swiss francs (about 9000 CHF in today’s money). Reincarnated as a private clinic in 1993, the Pyramid has maintained its status as one of Zurich’s most iconic buildings. On 6 October 2021, the building was granted listed building status by the City of Zurich.

So what has Ferro House got to do with Brutalism? Technically, not very much. But if you set it in concrete, it would tick all the boxes. So we declare it a brute in spirit.

The Pyramid’s distinctive russet patina is the result of the rapid oxidation of Cor-Ten steel, which was a favourite in corporate architecture in the late 1960s. One of the material’s biggest fans was the artist Richard Serra, who used the rust effect extensively in his large-scale land art, making it a household name around the world. For his Zurich landmark, Dahinden went one step further, adding copper-tinted protective glass windows to create a striking tone-on-tone effect.
Never the first choice for a functional building, Justus Dahinden was an ‘urbanotopian’ architect who floated above the restrictive dogmas of post-war modernism. Both a man of faith and an ardent believer in ‘function follows form’, Dahinden was on a mission to reconnect architecture with the spiritual and social essence of humankind. His designs seek to strike an ideal balance between radical design and sound method. A graduate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Dahinden’s early work was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonio Gaudi and sacred architecture. In the 1960s 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 the Zelthaus on Mount Rigi, Schwabylon leisure centre in Munich, and Trigon Village in Hottingen, Zurich. Justus Dahinden died in spring 2020.
Ferro Haus, Pyramide am See, Justus Dahinden, © Karin Buerki/Heartbrut. Explore more on Heartbrut.com

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

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