We heart Hardbrücke: How this colossal 70s bridge went from unloved super-polluter to urban cool hotspot
In 1973, Zurich’s industrial quarter was a grey and dreary place. The newly inaugurated Hardbrücke bridge brought additional noise and exhaust fumes. A typical product of the car-first urban planning of the boom years, the concrete colossus ate its way like a gigantic wedge from Hardplatz in district 4 over the railway tracks right through the industrial district to Wipkingerplatz. In the wake of the oil crisis and the emerging environmental movement, the bridge quickly fell into disrepute.
Worse still, the universally unloved air polluter contributed significantly to cementing the negative perception of concrete in people’s minds.
But the regeneration of the industrial quarter into a nightlife destination this side of the millennium and a comprehensive bridge makeover put the bad rep to bed for good. Today the section between Hardbrücke station, Prime Tower and Frau Gerold’s Garten serves as the go-to location for ad people and tv crews to stage “urban cool”. And why not. It is, after all, one of the very rare places in Switzerland that actually do manage to face up to their counterparts in London or New York. The coming together of post-industrial regeneration, club culture and urban gardening aesthetics tap brilliantly into the zeitgeist and prove a perennially popular hangout for hipsters, bankers and Gen Airbnb.
Post-facelift, Hardbrücke bridge not only features a sleek silhouette and elegantly curved stairs, but also offers plenty of space for a tram line and room for pedestrians and cyclists. For the latter, the former exhaust fumes guzzler has even become a place of pilgrimage of sorts: at the “Ride for your Rights” rallies across the city, thousands of bicycle fans regularly take it in their stride.