Pink Jungle in Zurich

The Zurich Münsterhof is steeped in magenta – at least for the duration of the Festspiele Zürich festival 2018 from June 1 to 24. For the design of the festival center, an ideas competition was held at the HSR Technical University Rapperswil. The winner was a project called “Jungle Cube” by Nadine Jost and Regula Luder. Landscape architect Viola Thiel and the curator of this year’s festival, Belén Montoliú, refined the idea. We talked with Viola Thiel about the project.

How has “Jungle Cube” come about?
The foundation and the curator of this year’s festival, Belén Montoliú, contacted us – the HSR Technical University Rapperswil – expressing the idea of organizing a competition for landscape architecture students who were enrolled in the spring 2017 class ‘Designing with Plants’. They were given the challenge to design the festival center on the Münsterhof town square.

Was there a general theme for the design?
This year, the festival’s motto is “Beauty | Madness”. Together with independent landscape architects, the festival foundation, the Zurich Tonhalle orchestra and the head of urban planning awarded the contribution of our students. But what’s more: Now, in June 2018, the Project is being realized in downtown Zurich. The temporary installation will add to the entire Münsterhof and we believe: it’s impressive.

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“The installation poses the question of the relationship between nature and artificiality.”

What’s the goal of the project?
The Future-Forest installation that derived from the “Jungle Cube” submission to the competition, raises questions about the relationship between nature and artificiality. The expansive installation is an eye-catcher and incorporates the historical background of the old town and the Fraunmünster Church. With its vegetated cube and the 1.000 square meters of pink artificial turf, the town square is functionally and artistically enhanced. This way, it gets a distinguishable face during the festival. The project is a meeting and exchanging place for those interested in culture as well as unsuspecting pedestrians. The artificial turf provides a stage for major events. It works as a creative frame for classical concerts, the opening ceremony with children’s choirs, and the Beauty Campus. For the different events, up to 3,000 visitors are expected.

What role did the students who won the competition play when the project was realized?
During the planning phase, the two winners could follow all the processes involved. Within a number of workshops in close cooperation with Belén Montoliú and me, the original idea was refined. From the entry in the competition, a palpable project derived. During the actual realization phase, the two students were only peripherally involved.

How important are such feasible projects for landscape architectural studies?
Often these temporal installations in public spaces are created within the scope of the study. They are very important because they – seemingly incidentally – make topics of urban and spatial development easy to grasp.

“It’s about creating new cityscapes.”

What do the students learn there?
The space, in this case the Münsterhof, is changed for three or for weeks. But this isn’t about actually building or creating but developing new cityscapes, dealing with the space, shifting perception, and changing perspectives on allegedly well-known places. The interdisciplinary work with cultural institutions cooperation and the academia makes this a very interesting task for students.