Witnesses of Industrialization
The railway company had a substantial influence on the city's urban development in the 19th century: In Zurich’s Industriequartier district, the trains rolled over railway embankments which posed insurmountable obstacles for the expansion of the district until they were replaced by viaducts in 1894.
Even then, businesses settled in the viaducts. Up to 200 stonemasons conducted their trade, initially outdoors and later in shed-like constructions, which were built where the MARKTHALLE stands today. Right next door to granite stonemason Stacchi's arch, stood what was referred to by locals as the "banana headquarters", a thriving business conducted with tropical fruit and roasted peanuts. Later automobile mechanic Dittgen also set up shop there.
At the end of the 1980s, the SBB made plans to expand the viaduct eastward under the project name "Fil Rouge", in order to increase the capacity of the Zurich HB-Oerlikon line. The new tracks would have been two to three meters higher than those already laid. The tunnel that followed would have still only had two tracks, and trains would have passed the windows of the homes next to the tracks as closely as three meters. Two plans for alternative detour routes were discarded in 1990 because they were too expensive.
Public outrage reached its peak in the spring of 1998, when 220 formal objections were filed against the project, and an association called "Verrückt das Viadükt" (Crazy Viaduct) collected signatures for a petition against "Fil Rouge". In 1999, the association, together with the VCS, submitted the cantonal popular initiative demanding the construction of a new underground through station. The results of their initiative are today's through station Löwenstrasse and the Weinbergtunnel.
Interim use of IM VIADUKT
Particularly since the 1990s, not only craftsmen or private persons have set up shop at the IM VIADUKT location, but also tenants, who have made a great contribution to revitalizing the district with their great innovations. Bananen + Frucht, Bogen 13, the Velowerkstatt, Calleri, and Greek Comestibles are probably the best-known examples. Whether a restaurant, cultural venue or specialty shop: The dedicated business people were not bothered by the sparse facilities under the damp arches. End of March 2003, however, they had to vacate their niches because the SBB had plans to renovate the viaduct and would have to remove the constructions to do so. This led to further protest in the district – the city and the SBB were up against the suspicion that they wanted to create an upper-class shopping area. Workshops were held with local residents, and there was an architectural competition.
The project IM VIADUKT
In the summer of 2004, the project submitted by EM2N architects and their partner Zulauf Seippel Schweingruber Landscape Architects were chosen as the winners of the architectural competition for the redevelopment of the viaduct arches and the design of the Lettenviaduktweg. In autumn of 2004, it was announced that the PWG Foundation would be in charge of reconstruction as the principal building client. Contrary to other interested parties, the PWG Foundation had no intention of building an upper-class shopping mall or nightlife hotspot in the new buildings, but instead wanted to fill the viaduct with tenants who were compatible with the district and rooted within the region. IM VIADUKT was planned as a meeting place for citizens of the district and its visitors. Together with professional planners, the PWG Foundation then refined the project until it was ready for execution. In 2011, the viaduct constructions were awarded three architectural prizes.