Design Studio FS2021 | Katzenbach Stadtpark

Design Studio FS2021 | Katzenbach Stadtpark
December 23, 2020 Sandra Wegmann

Introduction to the studio will take place on Tuesday, February 23rd 2021 at 10 am via zoom.


Wednesday, February 24th, 2021


Prof. Christophe Girot, Magdalena Kaufmann, Lara Mehling, Benedikt Kowalewski, Julian Fischbacher


Simon Kretz (Salewski & Kretz), Lukas Schweingruber (Studio Vulkan)


Alexander Böhm, Philip Meile, Sandra Wegmann, Michael Zuber


Magdalena Kaufmann


Shaping a new Peri-Urban Park for Zürich Nord

The topology of the site is defined by its ice age history. After the last glaciation, large masses of ice were disconnected from the Linth Glacier and eventually formed an expansive ice lake. Over millennia, the lake turned into the two Katzenseen and left behind a moor landscape with peat and reed areas. The Katzenseen are also remarkable because they contribute to two watersheds: They are fed exclusively by groundwater and rainwater and drain in two directions: to the east by the Katzenbach and to the west by the Furtbach.

Already in the 19th and early 20th century, extensive wetlands formerly functioning as a Commons along the Katzenbach were reclaimed by drainage efforts. Since then, this formerly largely rural area with extensive forests, small farming villages, and individual farmsteads increasingly developed into an urban settlement area. Affoltern and Seebach, which were still farming villages in the 19th century, were incorporated into the city of Zurich in 1934 and soon thereafter experienced an upswing. Affoltern underwent its first construction boom in the 1950s.


A second major construction boom in Seebach and Affoltern was triggered by Zürich’s housing shortage at the beginning of the 21st century (2006-2014). While the largest growth phase is likely over, many transportation and infrastructure projects are still underway. As with the rest of Zurich, continued growth at the northern edge of Affoltern and in Seebach are expected in an ongoing transformation of the cultural landscape into a primarily residential district.

The environmental value of the Katzensee area was recognized early and was designated a cantonal landscape protection area already in 1915 – nevertheless, it was cut by the A1 highway in the early 1980s and only reconnected via the highway lid/covering (Überdeckung Katzensee) completed in 2019. Today, the plain extending east of the Katzenseen marks the largest remaining open cultural landscape in the city of Zurich. As such the rural-urban transition zone is under recurring pressure from the often conflicting needs of the agricultural, urban development, and recreational uses, while seeking protection of its sensitive freshwater habitats.

The Katzensee area and its Hinterland are a preserved nature park, subject to restrictive legal constraints. The small lake is the recreation area of choice for many city dwellers and its saturation demonstrates the strong need for access to natural landscapes in urban society. The site continues eastward along the 7km narrow Katzenbach, Zurich’s longest open stream, which cuts across agricultural fields between Affoltern and Seebach before joining the Leutschenbach in feeding the Glatt. As an ecological connector between rural and urban, cultural and natural landscapes, it holds great potential as a recreational route from Katzensee to Glattpark.

Following this story of water from the Katzensee lakeside beach past the Büsisee reservoir (built to drain the land during the construction of the A1 highway and nearby Gubrist tunnel) on the location of an historic Commons (visible on historic maps as an ‘Allmend’), the Freibad Seebach to the 23’000m2 artificial lake at peri-urban Opfikerpark (itself built in the former Oberhauser-’riet’ or marshland), we will modify topography to further explore water as a central design tool for the region.


To establish an urban landscape strategy for the Katzenbach plain, we will view the ‘space in-between’ instead from the perspective of the open-space, recasting sprawling settlements as urban islands within a larger territory and/or shaping a new landscape vision which pushes up against urban edges. We will analyze the periphery of Affoltern and Seebach, consider innovative agricultural practices operating in concert with ecology, and contemplate contemporary forms of leisure in envisioning a landscape park for the 21st century.