A Bold Spirit in Classicistic Apparel
Built at the beginning of the twentieth century by the architects Ernst Jung and Otto Bridler as the first residence for the Volkart worldwide trading house, the Volkarthaus presents itself on the exterior as a solid "partner in commerce", with a respect for tradition in the neo-Gothic style. A façade that speaks of dependability, success, conservative values and enthusiasm for the Middle Ages. A house which upon first sight does not reveal its true identity as an exciting location full of contrasts.
The first noticeable contrast was given to it by the builders themselves; it is apparent in the construction concept and astounds the visitor who has just swung inside through the revolving door. The contrast is between a massive, stalwart exterior and an unexpectedly luminous interior. The house surprises the visitor with the formal language of Art Nouveau, unexpected in this location and so very modern back at the time of its construction. One's attention is caught by the riveted iron construction of stairway and gallery which, just as with the glass roof above the bright, expansive courtyard, was included as an aesthetic impetus in the artistic design of the interior space.
If the façade stands for presentation and representation, then the interior stands for innovation and creation. A dynamic field which was established by the builders and whose powerful emanation has continued up to now. An inheritance, like genes as it were, exercising an influence throughout the varying utilizations of the building and defining its atmosphere right up to the present.
After the building had housed the Volkart firm up to 1928, it was used for many years by the Swiss Accident Insurance Company SUVA until, in 1995, it returned to the possession of Volkart. It was Andreas Reinhart who charted out the direction of the carefully undertaken architectural alterations. Through the inclusion of the attic and cellar levels, not only was the utilizable surface area intended to be considerably enlarged, but furthermore a special philosophy was supposed to imbue the house with a bold spirit in classicistic apparel.
The intention was to create not only a model, health-promoting work environment, but also inspiring surroundings. A terrain of possibilities. An atmosphere that promotes dialogue among the institutions and projects located in the house, in other words among the people who work here. Thus it came to a further astounding contrast. Alongside that which was old and was preserved intact, there arose that which is new. For the renovation transformed a company residence that in the meantime is almost a hundred years old into an extremely modern, intelligent building - well thought-out in electro-biological terms, conceived according to the latest principles of natural construction and equipped with a complex system of sensors that regulate the climate in the house. In addition, there is networking which is laid out through the entire house and which makes it possible to work with the most modern communication technology. High Tech in an historicizing shell.
Beneath its roof with the curved gable, the house today combines the most diverse utilizations. Commerce, creation and culture co-exist in this building, which after the renovations was transformed into the Volkarthaus. What takes place here is design, construction, calculation, administration and communication, but also explanation, reception and recitation. With the so-called "Coal Mine Gallery & Book-Bar" in the cellar rooms of the house, a living space was created which is available, not just to the users of the house, but also to visitors from outside. There is a library with modern literature and philosophy which is used as a social meeting-place and also as a forum for readings and lectures. Alongside is a gallery which regularly sends out invitations to vernissages for contemporary photographic art. In this way the house has become a working domicile which includes a cultural interface with the inhabitants of Winterthur and the guests of the city. It further represents, however, much more than the sum of these parts: a greenhouse for construction and creation.
- Binder Architektur AG
- Peter Bloesch Vermögensverwaltung
- speakers.ch AG
- Forum Bildung
- Herzkraftwerk AG
- hardmeyer & gloor ag
- Kulturstiftung Winterthur
- working image
- P & B Partner Architekten AG
- Radio Stadtfilter
- Ref. Fabrikkirche Winterthur
- Volkart Foundation
- Volkart Holding AG
- Ruedi Widmer, Grafik
- Winterthur Consulting AG Unternehmensberatung