An ever-evolving monument since 1939

– The complete renovation of the Zurich Convention Center and Tonhalle mean that this building complex is once again returning to its original architectural state. The complex was opened at the time of the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition, and has radiated a sense of urban openness and international innovation ever since.

The new Zurich Convention Center was inaugurated at the beginning of May 1939. The official opening ceremony for the building, nicknamed the “Landi”, took place in the newly integrated Tonhalle, with the subsequent banquet held in the large Kongresssaal hall. The National Exhibition from May to October 1939 was held at a very tense time politically – and it was a huge success. Over 10 million visitors were enthralled by the exhibition, which combined entertainment with the concepts of innovation and identity building.

Schifflibach stream and cable car

Did you know that a water channel ran through the exhibition grounds on the left-hand shore of the lake back in 1939? Named the “Schifflibach”, it allowed visitors to paddle their way through the Landi in small metal boats. The “Landibahn” – a 900-metre-long cable car system – then carried them over to the right bank of Lake Zurich, where the other exhibition site was located.

Bird’s eye view of the Convention Center

The visitors’ view from the air would certainly have included the newly opened Zurich Convention Center. The work of the Zurich architectural firm “Haefeli Moser Steiger”, it is still regarded today as an important example of what is known as the “Landistil” movement – a moderate form of Swiss modernism. Openly positioned and facing the lake, the new Zurich Convention Center united the two exhibition sites both geographically and ideologically: while modern, industrial Switzerland was on show on the left shore of Lake Zurich, exhibitions on Switzerland’s more traditional side took centre stage on the right.

Complete renovation strikes a successful balance

The removal of the Panoramasaal (panorama room) in favour of the spacious terrace and its staircase down into the garden harks back to the original architecture of the Convention Center. The renovations are also intended to bring the building right up to date in terms of technology and bring the concept of multifunctional use – a key part of the design in 1939 – back to the fore. The Zurich Convention Center thus remains an impressive architectural monument, which stands today, as it has always done, for diversity, openness and flexibility.

 

Picture: Swiss National Museum LM-101464.16

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