It is either the ultimate stereotype or the perfect illustration of our little country's knack for practical resourcefulness: Switzerland has a new creative hub, and it used to be a dairy factory.
From Dairy to Design
Until the late 1990s, millions of liters of milk used to be processed at the Toni Areal in Zurich's Kreis 5. Since this summer, the former dairy factory has given way to a different kind of food: Food for thought.
The largest arts university in Switzerland - the Zurich University of the Arts - teaches thousands of students all about art and design education, dance, design, film, music, theater, and the visual arts.
In over 1400 classrooms, the future movers and shakers of the art world are not only learning the ropes, but probably also how to navigate through a building that appears - to novices at least - like a beautifully designed maze.
There is a cinema, several concert halls, exhibition stages, a music club, a rooftop garden and of course the Schaudepot and the Museum of Design Zurich.
It is the kind of place where you want to become an art student, even if you have never set foot in a museum.
A Trip Down a Well Designed Memory Lane
In case you have not visited a museum in a long time: Toni Areal to the rescue, once again! Right next to the cafeteria, the Museum of Design Zurich showcases the best the design world has to offer. Until February 2015, you can visit the exhibition 100 Years of Swiss Design and admire furniture, objects for everyday use, design icons, mass products and handcrafted items.
Swiss design is simple yet elegant, functional and precise. It is timeless and goes way beyond watches. How far beyond, you ask? You will have to figure it out for yourself, but I will give you a hint: The exhibit even includes sex toys.
If you have grown up in Switzerland, 100 Years of Swiss Design will be a journey through time. You will most definitely recognize objects and furniture you have seen (or even owned) before. And if you are Newly Swissed, it will be the perfect occasion to discover the creativity of Swiss design at its best!
Behind (and below) the Scenes
No visit to the Toni Areal should be complete without checking out the Schaudepot. There is not really a word for it in English, but it is kind of like a walk-through storage area. Yes, if the warehouse part of IKEA and a really fancy storage room had a baby, it would be the Schaudepot...
There are no meatballs and you cannot buy anything, but it is a fascinating world nonetheless: For the first time, 500'000 objects from four collections are combined in a 3'700 m2 storage area: Posters, design, applied art and graphics design.
You will have to book a tour to visit the Schaudepot as you cannot just wander around by yourself: Since it is not actually a museum but really a warehouse, you will only get to see a small part of the collection. But visiting the Schaudepot will give you a glimpse of where objects and artwork hang out when they do not hang on walls of museums all around the world. You will feel like a VIP with an almost-all-access-pass.
My advice: Make sure you wear a sweater or a light jacket. The rooms of the Schaudepot are temperature controlled, so it can get a little chilly. And ladies, do not wear heels. You will have to walk across all kinds of surfaces... As always, I recommend layers and comfortable shoes.
Tours and Opening Hours
Public tours are available in German only and need to be booked in advance. They cost CHF 12 (CHF 8) and also include access to the museum where you can admire 100 Years of Swiss Design through February 2015. English tours are available upon request.
Tu - Su 10 AM – 5 PM
We 10 AM – 8 PM
(Photographs copyright by Cédric Egli)