Refurbishing Modernism

Refurbishing Modernism



The Restaurant Walensee is a deeply romantic modernist building, nestled into the foot of a mountain on the inside of the motorway for which it was built as a service station in 1968. In reality, the building is stranded, both physically and functionally, having been made redundant as long ago as 1986 by an adjustment to the logic of the motorway. Its concrete piloti support wide slabs that frame the view of the Walensee and the sheer face of the Churfirsten range that rises on the opposite side of the lake. The Restaurant Walensee is a small belvedere framing the modernist dream of the infrastructure harmoniously speeding through eternal nature.

Children, from their backseats wanted to live there as grown-ups. For those grown-ups who in passing, idly (or not) imagined real estate opportunities. Yet for the natural sceptics, demolition is the only reasonable procedure. But travelling at speed through the landscape, such thoughts are as fleeting as the views. Time passes, and now as a 50-year-old, the Restaurant Walensee seems to be doomed as so many much older architectural ruins.


The Programme

The task is to find an appropriate and feasible way to reuse the existing building. The programme and approach are open. Imagine it as your own project but one which should be relevant to a wider architectural, cultural and political discourse about re-use, restoration, conservation and about the future of building. The task may be modest but the subject will occupy an enormous part of the next generation of architectural production.

The building is the subject but you should work with all scales to allow the project oscillate between the detail, the construction and the territory, the landscape and water front to which it belongs.

Possible interventions: Cafe/Station, Bar/Station, Hotel, Restaurant, exhibition space, youth hostel, spa, sports centre, house…


You are to develop your own architectural and technical agenda including programme, spatial, material, constructional strategies and solutions. Project must respond to current and imminent building regulations, especially in terms of conservation of energy. If current regulations are not fit for purpose, you may critical propose progressive alternatives. However this is not an invitation for self-indulgent design outside of regulation, it is an opportunity to test architectural solutions which may be used in other similar conditions. The technical resolution should be central to the thesis and should balance appropriate care for the heritage in your custody with building physics, environmental performance and economics.


Your thesis should also include a presentation that communicates the ideas, spirit, values of the project as well as a comprehensive description of the technical means to achieve it. The final presentation should include both internal and external treatments. Architectural drawing spanning 1:5 to 1:500 at least, should demonstrate a holistic understanding of the technical, material and human qualities of the project. Models should be used intelligently to engage physical and spatial dimensions. In short, while the subject is very specific, the thesis you are invited to consider is open from its conception to its communication.


Site Visit

Tuesday, 20.02.2018
14:40 Meeting at Mühlehorn train station for Site Visit

We recommend the following train connection:
13:43 Zurich HB – 14:34 Mühlehorn

The visit will begin with a 40-minute hike beside the Walensee, followed by approx. one hour at the Restaurant Walensee
N.B. The building itself is a ruin, so bring appropriate shoes and warm clothing.
17:24 Train from Mühlehorn to Zurich HB

The brief can be downloaded from our server at
please click on FS18 - Master Thesis - Refurbishing Modernism

For downloading the large 3d landscape data and the drone aerial videos please use following scratch server:
01_Alle - 00 EMERSON - FS18 Master Thesis Theme C