Housing Estate, Max P. Kollbrunner, Zurich 1976-1978

The four muscular Hardau towers prove municipal brutalist housing estates can weather time and trends with true grit. Commissioned by the City of Zurich as an innovative way of offering affordable housing to the fast growing demographics of singles and the elderly, Hardau was built by local architect Max B. Kollbrunner. The meeting of Manhattan and pragmatic Swiss brutalism added welcome drama to the Zurich skyline.

Kollbrunner’s smartest design decision was the use of pigmented concrete in bush-hammered finish. Not only did the splash of colour lend Hardau its signature look, it was also a welcome move away from the ghetto-grey most mid 70s concrete housing estates were still being trapped in. Tones change from deep burgundy on rainy days to a powdery shade of ochre when the sun is out, adding a hint of mediterranean serenity.

The crosswall-complex was originally intended for singles and elderly couples, as at the time local authorites regarded high rises unfit for families and children. Since the noughties Hardau has been undergoing major regeneration programmes. A 2007 revamp merged the predominantly 2 1/2-bedroom apartments in the upper areas. Today Hardau is home to a diverse mix of tenants, ranging from families, urban professionals, young creatives and pensioners.


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