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Uster Culture Centre

Uster Culture Centre is to be built on the arsenal site within a master plan by Morger Architekten. With the existing arsenals as a starting point, this plan aims to create an independent piece of city. Our project is a first step along this path.

The pragmatic functionalism of the existing arsenals provides the models for the new buildings. They derive their beauty from their radically simple form and construction and the ability to ‘perform’ that goes with this. In accordance with the motto ‘Space instead of surface’ the new culture centre is not a building for representational purposes but is rather a flexible and experimental space machine, usable in a variety of ways.

Although the permitted building volume is actually too small for its urban setting and budgets for culture are often extremely limited, the culture centre is intended from the start to develop a powerful presence. To achieve this aim, our design deliberately provides an oversupply of spatial volume. In return we have conceived the entire complex in such a way that it can be erected in stages and the density can be increased over a longer period by means of new insertions.

Zeughaus Ost II forms the centre of the complex. By adding two simple new buildings the arsenal becomes a powerful ensemble. The eastern ‘Kulturregal’ is conceived as a structurally open and porous building whose density can potentially be increased later and which gives the culture centre an unmistakable face towards the town. Here a restaurant, the cinema and a small hall are accommodated. The small cinema is in the basement, the Kunstraum uses the public deck at 1st floor level. The large hall is in the western ‘Kultursaal’, which to avoid noise turns away from the planned residential buildings and interlocks visually and programmatically with the ‘Kulturhof’.

On the courtyard side, along the entire length of the arsenal building, a twin-aisle foyer is made with mobile bar, cloakroom, and ticketing islands. From this foyer functions still to be defined on the 1st floor and roof storey can be accessed, such as, for instance, a music school or studios, and functions in the two adjoining new buildings can also be reached from here.

Neubau 1 to the west contains the large hall with its servant spaces. Delivery areas, stage rooms and performers’ dressing rooms can be used flexibly to meet different functions, in this way ensuring the smooth running of different events. In Neubau 2 on the eastern side of the complex there is a restaurant on the ground floor, a small hall, and the cinema. Between the buildings a ‘Kulturhof’ is developed, which can be activated ideally on three sides.

Model photographs / Visualisations: © EM2N, Zurich
Photographs of the existing building: © EM2N, Zurich

Index: 276 KUZ
Dates: Competition 2019 · Planning phase 2019–

Team EM2N
Partners: Mathias Müller, Daniel Niggli · Associates: Fabian Hörmann (competition), Bernd Druffel (execution) · Project leaders: Mathias Kampmann · Project team (competition): Béatrice Bruneaux, Georgia Gkotsopoulou, Carolina Gomes, Elói Gonçalves, Jean-Baptiste Joye, Jochen Kremer, Kinga Łukasińska, Philipp Maass, Paul Tschritter, Kenneth Woods
Modellbau: Jennifer Bottlang, Andrea Guido Ferrarini, Joey Frei, Jonas Rindlisbacher, Theodoros Sandros

Specialist planners
Civil engineer: Dr. Deuring + Oehninger AG, Winterthur · Building physics / acoustics: applied acoustics GmbH, Gelterkinden · Landscape architecture: Balliana Schubert Landschaftsarchitekten AG, Zurich · Planning heating / ventilation / air-conditioning and sanitary services: Abicht Zug AG, Zug · Sound isolation: applied acoustics GmbH, Gelterkinden

Uster, Switzerland

Competition, 1st prize

City of Uster



Art spaces, Café, Changing rooms, Cinema, Concert hall, Event spaces, Foyer, Parking, Restaurant, Roof terrace, Storage spaces, Theater

7,000 m²