Memories

The Zurich Convention Center is an institution of national and international renown. Not only does it enjoy a privileged location directly on Lake Zurich, it also offers an incomparable array of events and services. With numerous world-class business, social and cultural events on offer, we take pride in diversity.

The history and architecture of the building are closely connected with the 1939 Swiss National Exhibition. This major historical event was designed to showcase Switzerland’s diversity, with the Zurich Convention Center providing a platform for a large range of events. In 1937, a Trägerschaft (legally responsible body) was created with the Kongresshaus-Stiftung (foundation), and the grand opening was held on 5 May 1939.

The building, which was designed by Max Ernst Haefeli, Werner Moser and Rudolf Steiger, joins forces with the world-famous Zurich Tonhalle to form a single structure, and is considered to be a prime architectural example of its time. The structural and operational symbiosis with the Tonhalle opens up additional attractive possibilities for event organisers. To this day, the Zurich Convention Center is one of the most versatile centres of its kind in Switzerland, with virtually any event possible. For national and international event and convention arrangers, concert organisers, companies, associations and private event organisers, the Zurich Convention Center is a great choice. The renovation and conversion works from 2017 to 2021 are set to make the centre even more multi-functional, transforming it into a highly modern, versatile, international-level event location.

The Zurich Convention Center has hosted numerous global stars through the years, from jazz legends Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Ella Fitzgerald to entertainers Josephine Baker, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte and rock and pop stars Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Deep Purple, Udo Jürgens and Patricia Kaas. We have also had the honour of welcoming Nobel Laureates in Literature, US presidents, federal councillors, business leaders and personalities such as the Dalai Lama into the iconic building, and the award ceremony for the world Footballer of the Year has already been held here.

The stars of world football attending the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala at the Zurich Convention Center
The stars of world football attending the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala at the Zurich Convention Center
Football Gala
Football Gala
Kaiser Ball
Kaiser Ball
Members of the press wait for the Rolling Stones in front of the Convention Center, 14 April 1967
Members of the press wait for the Rolling Stones in front of the Convention Center, 14 April 1967
Jakob Tuggener: Ball Nights
Jakob Tuggener: Ball Nights
Artists’ masquerade ball in the Convention Center, 1957
Artists’ masquerade ball in the Convention Center, 1957
Café in front of the Convention Center, 1939
Café in front of the Convention Center, 1939
Main entrance from Claridenstrasse; behind is the entrance to the Tonhalle
Main entrance from Claridenstrasse; behind is the entrance to the Tonhalle
Werner M. Moser, Max Ernst Haefeli and Rudolf Steiger on the construction site of the Convention Center, around 1939
Werner M. Moser, Max Ernst Haefeli and Rudolf Steiger on the construction site of the Convention Center, around 1939
View of the Tonhalle from Alpenquai, stereoscopic image from around 1900
View of the Tonhalle from Alpenquai, stereoscopic image from around 1900
Tonhalle in its original condition in 1895
Tonhalle in its original condition in 1895
  • 2017 The construction works begin in July 2017 as scheduled. The renovation and conversion works are expected to take 3.5 years. During this period, the Tonhalle is moved to the Maag-Areal. These renovation works are designed to restore the original quality of the ensemble, its look and feel, as well as improve the overall infrastructure and adapt it to today’s standards.

    The plan is to better harness the building’s potential, at the same time improving its integration into the urban landscape. The Panoramasaal (panorama room) on the first upper floor has already been torn down and will be replaced by a freely accessible restaurant with views of the lake and a large terrace.

    The dismantling of the old organ in the Tonhalle began in the summer. Professional organ builders disassembled the organ with the greatest care, before transporting it to a warehouse in Poland. In the meantime, the organ’s future has been decided. It will be rebuilt in the cathedral in Koper, Slovenia, from 2020 at the latest. Zurich’s Tonhalle will receive a new organ to celebrate its re-opening. It is being built by globally renowned Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd. from Männedorf and will meet all of the Tonhalle’s requirements. The new organ will be slightly smaller and easier to play.

  • 2016 On 5 June, voters in the City of Zurich vote in favour of the loan for renovating and converting the Convention Center and Tonhalle and establishing a foundation under public law with an overwhelming 3/4 majority.

  • 2015 Before requesting financing for renovating the Convention Center and the Tonhalle, in April the City Council of Zurich proposes establishing a new Kongresshaus-Stiftung foundation under public law. This replaces the existing Kongresshaus-Stiftung under private law as of April 2017, taking over the Tonhalle and convention building before the start of the planned renovation and conversion works in the summer of 2017.

    The renovation and conversion works for the Convention Centre and Tonhalle amount to CHF 174.4 million. A substantial proportion of this investment is made in the areas of building technology, supporting structure, earthquake protection, fire protection, escape routes, the building envelope as well as the utility connections, which are vital for preserving the substance of the building and ensuring its continued use.

    Through live broadcasts, conventions with up to 4500 participants should be possible in future. The Panoramasaal (panorama room) on the upper floor is demolished, giving visitors to the Convention Center and Tonhalle uninterrupted views of the lake and Alps. The new Kongresshaus-Stiftung under public law still owns both parts of the building: the Convention Center and the Tonhalle. The City of Zurich waives the repayment of the loan of CHF 56.8 million for renovation and conversion works between 1981 and 2002. In return, the Kongresshaus-Stiftung transfers ownership of the site on which the Convention Center and Tonhalle stand to the City of Zurich and pays a symbolic annual ground rent of CHF 1000.

    Directive on the Kongresshaus-Stiftung (German)
    Directive on the Convention Center and Tonhalle renovation works (German)
  • 2013 At a press conference on 26 June 2013, the City Council announces that it is no longer planning to build a new convention centre and is now focusing on the existing Convention Center on the lake. The “Terrasse” project by ARGE Boesch/Diener is presented, which involves converting the garden room (Gartensaal) wing and building a new terrace restaurant. The aim is to make the building more attractive for conventions, Tonhalle visitors and the general public.

  • 2009 to 2012 For four years, other possible sites for a new convention centre are assessed and then rejected. In the light of developments in the convention industry, and being unable to secure the desired sites, the City Council decides in 2013 to renovate the existing Convention Center instead of erecting a new building.

  • 2008 On 1 June 2008, Zurich’s residents reject the land purchase and therefore also the Moneo project, with 56.8% of the votes. ZürichForum AG is liquidated as a result.

  • 2005 Together with the Kongresshaus-Stiftung Zürich foundation and private parties, the City of Zurich establishes a public-private partnership (ZürichForum AG) for constructing and running the new convention centre on the foundation’s premises and the neighbouring area of Villa Rosau. Spanish architect Rafael Moneo wins the architectural tender for the new centre on the site of the current Convention Center.

  • 2001 onwards The feasibility of a new convention centre is assessed. Different sites are considered and discussed.
  • 1980 to 1985 The 1980s see numerous renovations and extensions.
  • 1939 The two core elements of the old building – the large and small Tonhalle rooms and the Tonhallenvestibül (Tonhalle vestibule) including the entrance hall on the ground floor – are preserved with the rest being demolished. Architects Haefeli Moser Steiger place a new structure over the old one, viewing the old building as an integral part of the new building.

  • 1937 On 7 August 1937, the Kongresshaus-Stiftung Zürich is jointly established by the City of Zurich and the Tonhalle Society.

  • 1900 By the beginning of the 20th century, the functionality and form of the “Trocadero” is called into question. At the same time, discussions begin regarding the need for a convention centre in Zurich. These plans become more concrete while planning the Swiss National Exhibition.

  • 1893 to 1895 From 1893 to 1895, the original Tonhalle, known under the name “Trocadero”, is built by Viennese architectural office Fellner & Helmer, who specialise in theatre constructions. Their architecture aims to rediscover the baroque style.