The New Toni-Areal in Zürich West

The Toni-Areal is a crucial part of the plan to breathe new life into Zürich West. The building was formerly a milk processing facility, and the new design by architecture firm EM2N features spaces for cultural events, as well as the Zürich University of the Arts and two departments of the Zürich University of Applied Sciences.

The Toni-Areal is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken in Zürich and will be the largest construction site in Switzerland during its realization phase. The total usable floor space is 108,500 m2, of which the colleges comprise 84,500 m2. The remaining 23,500 m2 are dedicated to housing, cultural events, restaurants, and small retail shops, as well as parking and technology. The construction price—including basic upgrades and tenant upgrades—amounts to about 350 million Swiss francs.

Planning with Vectorworks Architect

Like all EM2N projects, the Toni-Areal was planned with the help of Vectorworks Architect software. In a project with a gross floor space that approximates the size of an entire city quarter, the sheer volume of data represents a formidable challenge. Thanks to Vectorworks software’s simple and flexible data model, EM2N was able to efficiently manage this enormous amount of data. Depending upon the need at hand, EM2N could store one plan in a single document, assemble several plans in one CAD/BIM document, or reference certain components in other plans. Traditionally, the Vectorworks application has been especially effective for creating layouts. “A plan composition with layout, profile, and detail views must happen quickly, and Vectorworks does a very good job with it,” says Christof Zollinger, one of the two general project managers for the Toni-Areal and an associate at EM2N. He has managed the Toni-Areal team at EM2N since 2006. “Vectorworks is a CAD program which creates the perfect balance between the expectations that typically exist for a contest competition plan and those that exist for an implementation plan. This CAD software accomplishes both tasks without any problem,” explains Zollinger.

Courtesy of EM2N

In addition to the entire construction detail, as well as the countless plans for layouts, profiles, façades, staircases, details, and other components, the firm also compiled special plans for the library, the entrance hall, and the concert hall, among other locations. The plans for these representative locations are graphically more elaborate than those for other building components and display additional information, such as structural engineering information, since these spaces usually extend over several floors.


The scope and complexity of the project, as well as the size of the team, made it necessary to create a system of parameters that would record and standardize the ground rules for working with the design software. The system ensured the creation of consistent plans and documents, and it served as an encyclopedia for all those who joined the project.

Courtesy of EM2N

The CAD-integrated database used BIM to collect building information for doors, door numbers, room sizes, and room numbers. Moreover, the team compiled a symbol library specifically for the Toni-Areal. EM2N used symbols for doors, interior glazing, sinks, and other items. Also, entire residential units were defined as one symbol in order to perform changes in the 20 plus residential units in an efficient and consistent manner.

Becoming Part of Town

EM2N’s proposal was chosen primarily for its flexibility, which was best able to accommodate the entirely different requirements of two educational institutions. The central driving idea is the combination of the building’s many uses and the momentum it creates throughout the city. Daniel Niggli and Mathias Müller, the principals at EM2N, therefore approached this project as a prototypical problem of urban development. Their design proposes to reconcile the size of the project with a kind of inner urbanism.

The team conceived of the existing ramp construction in the north as a vertical boulevard and redesigned it as one of the major improvements. The architects created a large public hall at the intersection of high- and low-rise elements. These two pieces are linked by a cascade-like sequence of halls and staircases, and this layout created internal addresses that position the various spaces just like buildings in the city. At the same time, the building becomes a city component in an inhospitable environment.

To create an open scope of action for the campus visitors, EM2N worked with various precisions, scales, and tonalities—sometimes rough, sometimes refined, in part over-defined and in part under-defined—with a selection of both large public and intimate private rooms. The building as a city; the city as a building.

About this author
Cite: Adelyn Perez. "The New Toni-Areal in Zürich West" 13 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.