Max P. Kollbrunner, Zurich 1978

© Heartbrut.com / Karin Hunter Bürki

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 means of offering affordable housing to the fast growing demographics of singles and 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 and have it bush-hammered. Not only did it lend Hardau its instantly recognisable trademark, it also avoided the sink-estate and inner city ghetto clichés large parts of the publicic associated with concrete high rises in the 1970s. Tones range from deep burgundy on rainy days to a powdery shade of ochre on sunny days, adding a hint of mediterranean serenity.

Originally, the crosswall-complex was 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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