September / Oktober 2023

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Live With A Giant

Residence space generated

von Yuting Mu


Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich






Arno Brandlhuber




Vectorworks, Rhino, Blender, Photoshop, Indesign

Live With A Giant
Swissmill Tower, the 118m exclamation mark in exposed concrete, holds the joint title of the world's tallest operating grain silo and Zurich's most polarizing high-rise. Ruthlessly exposing its industrial function, the Swissmill Tower is every inch a contemporary brute, fighting its corner in the heart of Zurich's art and nightlife district.

Every stone of the Swissmill Tower has been a topic for debate since its construction in 2016. Until the year 2000, Zurich was under a "High-rise ban" that didn't allow any further high-rises. Currently, several high-rises are being developed in the city after legislative attempts were made for some time. For example, by expanding the high-rise zone to enable densification through building higher. It is often argued that tall buildings create a lack of scale that obscures the urban structure and diminishes the distinctive character of the landscape.

My approach to exploring the inscribed future use of the tower derives from the spatial relations between the tower and its surrounding context, as well as between the tower and pedestrians. Even though we are talking about monumental high-rises over a hundred meters, it is important to study them at a human scale.

Based on perceptions from different observing positions as pedestrians, I found out that the giant building does not always look like a giant. The extreme height of the tower is only apparent for pedestrians and residents within a certain range, and it doesn't affect those at a distance. On the contrary, it serves as good orientation and a landmark.

In those areas where measures are necessary to soften the tension between the high-rise and human scale, between brutalism and domestic residence, trees will be planted as obstacles in pedestrians' view to hide the giant structure, addressing the issue with great ease. Additionally, a new facade will be introduced on the side facing Wipkingen, where the planting is less effective in hiding the building from the sight of residents. Alternatively, the brutal appearance of the tower will be transformed into a new image – a building resembling a tree that grows itself and provides spaces for various beings with tolerance and generosity.

The innovative approach to transforming the Swissmill Tower involves the implementation of a new facade made from mycelium material. This unique material will grow from within
the building's silos, gradually enveloping the structure. Openings will be carefully crafted, and a new staircase will be constructed to provide access to the tower, allowing people to explore its interior.

The Swissmill Tower will be regenerated as a machine. Instead of processing grains, it will be colonized by different life forms. In this way, the obscurely inscribed future use of the tower, which has already been built in, is revealed. It brings the tower's responses to future crises.
Text von Yuting Mu.