Im Viadukt, Zürich’s trendy shopping arches

Prime Towers in Zurich was where I begin the previous post and its where this one will begin to. The completion of a skyscraper in 2011 read in that post as if it was the only rationale choice to take, but that was not the case. It was in fact the only skyscraper to be successfully completed in the district.

West Zurich’s viaduct was a prime site for industry because it lay on rail way line into the city. It’s importance was indisputable, having been built in 1894 to replace old railway tracks that were already in place much earlier on. The raised viaducts then were home to traders and craftsmen like stone masons, mechanics and tropical fruit sellers targeting the people who lived in the area.

Things continued smoothly until the 1980s when redevelopment called for the further expansion of the railway tracks. The people planning the expansion did not think there would be a huge problem. It was just the poor living there anyway, and the area was in need for a facelift, everyone could see that besides the Zurich economy and hub status required this redevelopment to happen.

Zurich Hauptbahnhof today

Zurich Hauptbahnhof needed more railways to come in to expand its capacity,so that it would remain a vital railway hub in the region, therefore a plan was hatched to move the tracks of the viadukt to the east closer to the houses of the residents in the industrial quarter. The plans bordered on insane however with trains running 3 metres from people’s houses. The discussions took a long time but there was no way the residents were going to see “reason”, not when they had to live with the consequences of some harebrained commercial solution. More than 200 formal petitions were presented, the residents organised and set up an organisation to fight against the scheme and in 1999 managed to convince the cantonal government to construct an underground through station instead of expanding the present tracks.

The power of a people’s votes is something to behold when used properly*.

There wasn’t much life in the district because many people had moved out and the industries were on their last legs in the area. But the energy of successfully stopping a big firm from getting its way put a spring in the step of the people and the viaduct found a new lease of life. Like they did in the past, the arches became space for people to do business, people began to rent the space to set up restaurants, the place started to regain more life.

But the battle was only just beginning, in 2003, the railway company and the cantonal government announced a new plan – they wanted to renovate the arches to increase stability and therefore all the business there had to vacate. People smelt a rat, the plan was no simple, they wanted something else, they wanted to replace us all with the upper class. This time around however, the suspicions were unfounded and the communications departments of the various large organisations were on top of their game. There was a lot of suspicion until the construction of Im Viadukt was completed.

I paraphrased that last paragraph from the what I had read on the website of Im Viadukt.

Despite walking around this trendy, hip district, I was divided on whether it was all built in the spirit of the place. It wasn’t a place for housing the rich, I was accessible to everyone, that’s true but it was a place for people for the hip to go and enjoy – meaning things here would price many people out of the market too.

Whether its a day at the park, or fancy cafes, restaurants and food halls. It was nice, that’s for sure.

Go check it out and decide for yourself.


*Since its topical, perhaps the most amazing expression of the people’s power happened in Malaysia in May, but this is not the blog for such a discussion, so I’ll just link a video from the Wall Street Journal here.



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