One of the leading architecture firms of 1920s-1930s Switzerland was formed by Hans Vogelsanger and Albert Maurer, established in Rüschlikon near Zürich in 1906 (now S+M Architekten). Their first projects remained safely in the realm of the established vernacular combined with Neoclassical elements such as in the Liguster schoolhouse in Zürich, completed in 1924. But it is their experiments with early modern architecture that would bring them recognition, starting with the Oerlikon post office, completed in 1927.
This building sits at the transition between the “Federal style” that marked Swiss official buildings of the 19th century, with its tiled hipped roof, mansard with chevron shutters and rustication on the ground floor, and modernism exhibited by the strict fenestration and the clean lines of the square clock tower. The large windows on the ground floor open to the post office, while the smaller upper windows and balconies hint at the five 4-room apartments built above.
The post office also benefited from a direct access to the train station for efficient mail transport. In 1944, a flat-roofed extension added larger loading docks towards the train tracks at the back of the building. Its situation between two busy streets and the train station however restricted further transformations required by the growth of the Oerlikon neighbourhood and in 1969, the post moved to a new building a few streets over.
The Pestalozzi Society was founded in Zürich in 1896 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the pedagogue Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi‘s birth. Its goal was to support popular education through the establishment of public libraries. When the city of Zürich absorbed the town of Oerlikon in 1934, the Pestalozzi Society took over the management of its local library, by then located in the second floor of the “people’s house” on Baumackerstrasse. In 1954, the Oerlikon library was able to claim the ground floor as well and took advantage of the extra space to open the first open-stack library in German-speaking Switzerland. Today, the Zürich public library network is still called Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich (PBZ) and operates 14 branches across the city.
In 1969, the Oerlikon library took over the floors vacated by the Swiss Post in the Vogelsanger & Maurer building. The building remained owned by the post until it was purchased by the city in 2001. Thanks to a thorough renovation led by Andrea Teuwen in 2013, the library was able to more than double its surface by taking over the lower loading docks level as well as a portion of the third floor that had until then been used as offices.
The images shown were taken in August 2019 and September 2021, with thanks to the PBZ for their welcome.
This post is part of a series on adaptive reuse in libraries. See the list of such projects I am maintaining or view other posts in this series.
- Ein neues Postgebäude in Oerlikon. (1926). Illustrierte Schweizerische Handwerker-Zeitung : Unabhängiges Geschäftsblatt der Gesamten Meisterschaft aller Handwerke und Gewerbe, 42(6), pp. 59–60.
- Erwerb der Liegenschaft Hofwiesenstrasse 379 (Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich), Quartier Oerlikon (No. 2001/572). (2001). Gemeinderat der Stadt Zürich
- Kippe, M. (2013). Jahresbericht 2013. Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich.
- Pestalozzi Bibliothek Oerlikon, Umbau. (n.d.). arc Consulting.
- Studer, E. (1960). Die Filialen Altstetten und Oerlikon der öffentlichen Bibliothek der Pestalozzigesellschaft. Nachrichten / Vereinigung Schweizerischer Bibliothekare, Schweizerische Vereinigung für Dokumentation, 36(2). pp. 53-57
- Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich. (2022). In Wikipedia.
- Vogelsanger und Maurer. (2022). In Wikipedia.
Library detail pages are primarily a place for me to collect information I gather on the libraries I visit, and are frequently updated. None of this should be considered authoritative, I am not an architect, nor a historian. If you notice something incorrect, please let me know!