The creation of a vibrant neighborhood of lasting value depends just as much on the quality of the «unbuilt environment», i. e. outdoor spaces, as on well-designed buildings. This point is amply illustrated by the Suurstoffi and Metalli sites, where Zug Estates has made rewarding investments in landscape design. Despite their differences in character – Metalli is an urban quarter with a broad public appeal, while Suurstoffi is dominated by its garden landscape – both sites strike a balance between clear-cut, carefully modeled design and multifunctional open spaces.
A place to shop and stroll – but also to sit down, chat and pause for a moment.
«This was quite different in the past, when the main squares of every city, as a key hub of public life, were a necessity of life of the first order – unlike today where this role is played by enclosed spaces, not open squares.» This was the criticism leveled by urban design theoretician Camillo Sitte in 1889, in the introduction to his City Planning According to Artistic Principles, at a style of urban planning based solely on economic and technical criteria, in which the design of squares and open spaces is subordinated to that of buildings. This statement still applies today, particularly with a view to sustainable comprehensive development: any attempt to create districts that offer a high and lasting quality of life needs to fashion the external areas every bit as carefully as the structures that surround them. Moreover, high-quality, versatile outdoor spaces are an important prerequisite for the emergence of lively neighborhoods. Indeed, the growing focus on densification and inner urban development heightens the need for external spaces that cater for a wide variety of uses and ancillary functions.
Greening the city
Various factors determine the quality of spaces between buildings: their ability to meet the diverse needs of users, foster social interaction and act as urban open areas while still offering security. Ultimately, it is also a question of formal treatment, the precise and careful definition of the transitions between indoors and outdoors, and the near-ground-floor uses. At the same time, external spaces should add ecological value by providing structures and habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna. A further aspect relates to urban greening or the creation of «green city spaces», as Sitte called them in the fourth and expanded edition of his standard work. Translated into the language of Zug Estates, this means developing a greening concept that is geared to the maximization of biodiversity at the heart of the urban realm, across all the seasons, and which also mixes forms of vegetation; for example, large solitary trees as well as park-like green spaces, low hedges or small wooded areas. The resulting landscape offers high amenity and complements building use while also leaving room for indeterminate open spaces. Lars Ruge, Member of the Board at landscape consultants Vogt Landschaftsarchitekten, describes the external design concept for the Suurstoffi site in terms of a square in the British tradition. This five-hectare public space offers play facilities for children, trees to climb, shrubs with pickable berries and a playing field, and is open to the entire neighborhood – local residents, students, schoolchildren and employees of the local companies – throughout the day, in the evenings and at the weekend.
The will to design
As with sophisticated, sustainable building projects, the realization of landscaping concepts such as this depends on the readiness of owners and developers to pursue these visions with absolute commitment over a longer period of time. This is also illustrated by the second site, the Metalli, located at the heart of the city of Zug, which Zug Estates has developed continuously for more than 30 years. Here, the remodeling scheme has successfully created attractive plazas, thoroughfares and alcoves through the provision of roofed areas, seating and a new traffic management system. The urban site, within walking distance of Zug railway station, has now become a place for pedestrians to linger and relax. This evolution has, in turn, prompted the expansion of public groundfloor facilities, with new shops and restaurants. These planned investments in the design of the public realm, the diversity of offerings and use of external spaces, at various levels, are part of a long-term and far-sighted plan to develop and create a distinct identity for a piece of the urban environment within the city of Zug.
Sheltered, though still outdoors – the Metalli quarter is an integral part of the city, combining extensive facilities with high amenity.