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Design city Zürich?

Helsinki currently has the coveted status of World Design City 2012. From what I have seen of the Finnish capital, it is a well deserved status (it really is pretty cool). But our time in Zürich turned up some interesting design finds too, such as the dedicated design Kreis (districts or neighbourhoods, especially those in Kreis 4/5) which made me wonder if Zürich is the unofficial Swiss capital of design?

One particularly cool area of the city that we spent some time in was the Viadukt, which is a 120 year old railway viaduct (still in use). It’s not any old viaduct though, with the arches of the stone structure having been converted in 2010 to a series of design conscious shops, cafes and bars including a markethalle made up of individual stalls selling organic and fairtrade produce, with some of the most delectable food I have ever seen on show.

The area has a gritty industrial feel to it, but inside the arches the shops are glossy with lots of fun things for sale.

It was an unusual shopping experience, with the trains intermittently roaring overhead.

I could totally imagine hanging out here on balmy summer evenings if I lived in the neighbourhood:

Continuing down the design route we spent an afternoon checking out the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich (Zurich Design Museum), which didn’t disappoint. Our visit seemed serendipitously timed, as we discovered one of the main exhibitions on was “100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design” which proved an excellent retrospective of everything from Helvetica to Swiss book and music publishing design, and included a vast collection of graphic design posters beautifully displayed (as you can see below).

On the upper floor of the museum a further treat awaited us, in the form of the exhibition “Freitag: Out of the Bag” which told the intriguing story of the brothers Freitag, a pair of young Zürich design entrepreneurs who have taken their bags made out of recycled truck tarpaulins from a small-scale business to a worldwide recognised brand over the past 20 years. The exhibition space was innovatively curated (you can see the printed lightbox structures below), with a range of videos, interactive displays, and hand drawn materials on show. It was interesting to learn about how the company has grown and the sustainable design ethos behind the business, and gave us a further appreciation for these kinds of business ventures, despite both feeling like the exhibition had achieved its ulterior motive (we left wanting to buy Freitag bags of our own).

Somewhat sucked in (ok completely, perhaps), later that day we did visit the Freitag flagship store, which was as impressive for its architecture as for the products housed inside (we resisted the many tempting and unique designs, and our bank balances are thanking us for it!). The store is built out of a series of shipping containers, and you can walk four stories up, and then to the roof, if you feel like truck-spotting.

The Freitag building sure makes for an interesting contrast next to the highest building in Zürich which looms up behind it. For the design-minded, and in combination with the exhibition at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, well worth a look.


Photos taken by CIA and PJD in Zürich, May 2012.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I like the container building!

    June 4, 2012
    • Hi Barbara, yes the Freitag building made out of the containers really is something! Have you been to Zurich? If you haven’t, but do make it there one day, the Freitag building really is well worth checking out!

      The use of containers as housing is interesting to me, being from a place where our government talked of trialing shipping containers as prison cells (hasn’t happenned yet!) and now living in a country where some student accommodation is made out of the containers. In fact, maybe I will post about them another time!?

      June 6, 2012
  2. Nastasja #

    We’ve been to Zurich few days ago, and we also have seen the same exhibition like you, too, and well – people teach us to love Swiss design. After all, holy Helvetica comes from Switzerland. 🙂

    June 4, 2012
    • Hi Natasja, awesome, just enjoyed your post about Zurich, sounds like you guys liked it as much as we did there! Cool that you also checked out the same exhibitions. Yes, holy Helvetica indeed!

      In fact, are you studying typography or design at the moment? If so, whereabouts? It’s always exciting to find another person who likes typography as much as PJD and I do! 🙂

      And, did you happen to check out the Museum Rietberg in Zurich? We didn’t make it this time but it looks like it will be a great one to go to another time.

      June 6, 2012

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