Hardturm by Kraftwerk1

A case study on the interplay of urban industry and the emergence and location of housing commons

A case study on the interplay of urban industry and the emergence and location of housing commons

TYPE Housing commons
STATUS Ongoing
KEYWORDS Cooperative housing, De-industrialization, Industrialization, P.M (Hans Widmer), Transformation
PERIOD 21st Century
USE Ateliers, communal spaces, shops, restaurants, roof-top terrace
COMMONERS Residents, co-op members
INSTITUTIONS Cooperative Kraftwerk1, Foundation PWG
Meret Heeb

Zurich illustrates an interesting correlation and interplay between the emergence and decay of urban industry and the evolution of new forms of housing commons. Among other aspects, this concurrence is also found in the geolocation.

Many social utopias for worker’s housing appeared in times of early industrialization, also outside of Switzerland. Housing was often provided by factory owners but workers soon started to look for healthy and affordable living conditions themselves.

In this situation also the first housing commons in Zurich emerged. Those housing mostly evolved in close proximity to the factories due to poor public transport.

Urban industry came into crisis in the 1960ties. The population of Zurich decreased. Factories were left empty. Abandoned factories were often squatted and gave room to test new ideas of commoning.

The disappearance of urban industry poses the question of what will be after de-industrialization. These trends offer interesting options for housing commons to realize new projects. In the post-industrial phase, the population of Zurich started to grow again and several new cooperatives were founded, among them the cooperative Kraftwerk1.


Huber, Andreas et al. Gewohnte Utopien – Die innovativen Siedlungen KraftWerk1 und Regina-Kägi-Hof in Zürich: Bericht zur Erstevaluation. Zürich: ETH Wohnforum, Departement Architektur. 2005.

Thissen, Fee Natalie. Vom Industrieareal zum Stadtteil: Zürich West. RWTH Aachen, Lehrstuhl für Planungstheorie und Stadtentwicklung. 2015. 

Blum, Martin; Hofer, Andreas; P. M. KraftWerk 1 – Projekt für das Sulzer-Escher Wyss Areal. Paranoia-City. 1993.

Stadt Zürich. Gerechter – Die Entwicklung der Bau- und Zonenordnung der Stadt Zürich. Hochbaudepartement, Amt für Städtebau. 2013.


Image 1 –
Port Sunlight (England) of the Lever Brothers’ soap company around 1900.

My Learning. Accessed October 2021

Image 2 –
Location of the Hardturm by the cooperative Kraftwerk 1 in the rezoned Escher-Wyss area in the Industriequartier and the context of the city.

Heeb, Meret. Drawing based on 3D-Stadtmodell of the city of Zurich. 2021

Image 3 –
First built project by the cooperative Kraftwerk1 (1999-2001).

Kraftwerk1. Accessed October 2021