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CH-Zug Herti 6 quarters completed
The town of Zug is special, even by the high Swiss standards: this small town at the shores of Lake Zug is home to more companies than it is to people. Ever since 1946, when low taxes were introduced, the town has attracted a growing number of letterbox and holding companies, leading to strong growth in the last three decades which has, in turn, led to a scarcity of space in the old part of town. Zug is both the smallest and the wealthiest canton of Switzerland. Today, around 114,000 people live in Zug. The population has doubled in the last forty years. The Herti area, somewhat unusually named after “Härte” (German for “hardness”), recalls the clay-rich soil and the hard work that went into plowing the land. The area conveniently lies west of the town center, leading to its development into a modern urban district over the last couple of decades. It is an area that dwarfs the old town by its sheer size, while it also relieves the old center. Several high-rise buildings currently rise above the silhouette of the medieval town. The Herti area seems to represent an open-air museum collection of all the urban planning concepts that have been applied in Switzerland since World War Two: there are conventional-looking rows of gabled roofs dating from the first building phase in the nineteen-fifties, followed by mono-functional behemoths of exposed aggregate concrete from the second, third and fourth building phases in the sixties and seventies. Then steeland-glass buildings typical of the eighties can be found, dating from the fifth phase. A school was built in 1976, a shopping center in 1983, a gymnasium in 1967, and a senior citizens’ home in 1984. As such, Herti is almost a self-sufficient town today. What all these urban planning “layers” have in common is the fact that they were all commissioned by or built on land owned by the “Korporation Zug”. This institution has been and continues to be highly influential in Zug. It owns large forest and agricultural tracts and hence also key building land which the town urgently needs for its further development. The “Korporation Zug” is a public corporation made up of the descendants of thirty-six “dynasties” of Zug which include around 4,500 people today. The corporation retains ownership of the land and extends building rights only to potential new investors.

At the northern end of the town, the “Herti 6” building phase, planned by ASTOC, has been planned to function as a mediator between the city and the Lorzenebene. The new city plan envisages six residential courtyard units that together stand on one plateau. In courtyard units two, four, and six, one building is always either point-shaped, oblong, or L-shaped. Courtyard units one, three and five each consist of three oblong buildings. While the free-flowing public space seems disjointed in the neighboring housing estate dating from the seventies, appearing more like a distanced green buffer zone, the courtyard units create true neighborhoods and legible spaces, both inside as well as outside in the space of the street. Rented and freehold apartments have been spatially mixed, so too sponsored and self-financed housing. All apartments have been designed for families and are appropriately sized.

Courtyard units one to four were already built in 2005 and offer 150 rented and forty-eight freehold apartments, partly designed as duplex types, while also providing a day-care center. Courtyard units five and six each provide 48 rented apartments conforming to the Minergie standard which is the most important energy standard for low-energy buildings in Switzerland. These units also house another day-care center.

On the outside, the six building blocks are white. They show their colorfulness and materiality only in the inner courtyards and on the façades of the set back floors. The single- and double-story stacked floors have each been colored differently, clad in either fiber cement slabs or wood of varying sizes and textures, supported by a common base with a plaster façade. A raised courtyard provides protected space with playing areas for small children. Each courtyard has been differently designed. A tree has been planted in a patio in the center of each courtyard, also providing a link to the underground garage which is naturally lit and ventilated by the patio. Drainage surfaces catch rainwater on the spot, turning it into a tangible spatial experience. From the street a ramp leads up to the courtyard while another one leads down to the semi-sunk parking level. All entrances are oriented towards the courtyard. In courtyard unit two the house numbers have been designed as large, colorful sculptures, while in courtyard unit six a pool of water and sand forms part of a unique playing ground for children. Each courtyard unit has been individually designed and has its distinct identity. The apartments have open spaces directed towards the south, west and east, designed to be part loggia and part balcony. The windows are each recessed slightly differently on the floor levels to lend the façade a playful note. The design of this newest built addition to the housing estate of Herti in Zug exemplifies how family-oriented housing that is simultaneously close to city life can provide a truly high-quality living environment.