Caruso St John Architects

2012–2020
Location: Zurich, CH
Client: ZSC Lions
Project Status: Competition, first prize

The site for the new Zurich Arena is at the edge of the city, a place where the urban structure has run out. This is a good place for a new sports arena and is an opportunity to mark the beginning of the city with a public building that makes a festive place for ice hockey. The design proposes a building with qualities somewhere between a monument and a tent. The clarity of its structure and volume suggest the archaic qualities of a mosque or caravanserai, an emblematic figure that makes its own place in a situation without specific qualities. The new arena should be different from the neighbouring industrial structures and should clearly mark out a place for public gathering, a meeting place and a gateway to the city.   

The arena is organised on one level, avoiding the superimposition of long span structures and resulting in the most efficient building volume. Buttresses on the long sides of the arena support steel trusses that span east-west over the main ice hockey and practice rinks. At ground level the depth of the buttresses forms arcades that run the length of the arena’s long, east and west, facades, and all entrances for fans, VIPs and vehicles are accommodated within these generous circulation spaces. At the south end of the arena, where the majority of fans will arrive, the arcades open up into monumental stairs that lead directly to a large south facing public terrace. During match days, this terrace provides a generous outdoor space that cannot be provided at ground level. When matches are not scheduled, this terrace could be used for celebrations and trade events, intensifying and diversifying the use of the arena. The equivalent space at the north of the site is a densely landscaped courtyard which provides an exterior amenity space for the VIP and press facilities.   

The primary structure of buttresses and trusses is covered by a cladding of precast concrete elements that refers to monumental classicism as well as having light, textile qualities. On the east and west facades the cladding elements form undulations which press into the space between the buttresses like a giant hanging drapery. The light tone of the cladding will be activated by natural light which will play on the drapery and on the fluting of its modelled surface. The cladding stops in a gently scalloped profile at the top of the arcade whose interior is clad in deep purple mosaic tiles.