SWISSMILL TOWER I HARDER HAAS PARTNER AG I © HEARTBRUT / KARIN HUNTER BÜRKI

SWISSMILL TOWER

The World's Tallest Grain Silo, Harder Haas Partner, Zurich 2013-2016

© Images & Text: Karin Hunter Bürki / HEARTBRUT

  • Sihlquai 306 Zurich
  • Industrial
  • Not Listed

This is pure, stark, reinforced concrete prose

Brutes almost always bang. This one pumps: ruthlessly exposing its industrial function, Swissmill tower is every inch a contemporary brute. The 2016 exposed concrete extension holds the joint title of the world’s
tallest operating grain silo and Zurich’s most polarising high-rise. In true brute spirit, Swissmill stands tall, fighting its corner in the heart of Zurich’s art and nightlife district.

21 floors of bare-faced concrete are inevitably prone to divide
opinion: «118 Meter Hässlichkeit» (118 meters of ugliness) highbrow Sunday paper NZZ am Sonntag declared. For the residents of neighbouring Wipkingen, the main point of contention was not the architecture as such, but the hour-long shadow the industrial tower threatened to cast on popular Unterer Letten river lido in the afternoon. Though Zurich parliament overwhelmingly gave the project the all-clear in 2011, opposition formed swiftly. Within a month 4000 locals signed a referendum paper. On 13 February 2011 a clear majority of 58,3% voted in favour of Swismill (55’822 voted yes, 39’913 voted no, participation reached 45,7%).

Love it or hate it, Swissmill supplies 30% of the national grain
requirements. If you live in Switzerland, chances are high your flour, cereals and semolina have been processed here. The boardroom on the top floor affords unparalleled, panoramic views across the city, the lake and, on a clear day, even the alps. 20’000 tonnes of grain and great views also proved very convincing arguments for a peregrine falcon to
take up residence on the top floor.

So far, Swissmill has resolutely resisted various attempts by local politicians and start-ups to decorate its facade. It seems, people are slowly embracing the concrete landmark. Especially the shadow it casts during heatwaves.

Three Loops, Ralph Bänziger, Zurich 1977, Brutalism, © HEARTBRUT / Karin Hunter Bürki
Three Loops, Ralph Bänziger, Zurich 1977, Brutalism, © HEARTBRUT / Karin Hunter Bürki
Three Loops, Ralph Bänziger, Zurich 1977, Brutalism, © HEARTBRUT / Karin Hunter Bürki
Three Loops, Ralph Bänziger, Zurich 1977, Brutalism, © HEARTBRUT / Karin Hunter Bürki
  • The original pool (© Baugeschichtliches Archiv Zürich)
Three Loops, Grünau, Ralph Bänziger © Baugeschichtliches Archiv
Scroll to Top