Published by Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at University of Greenwich, London

MFO Park Zurich – The Park House

The dynamic relationship between structures and open spaces at the MFO Park is discussed by Christoph Fisher.

Imagine a steel frame structure 100 m by 35 m and 17 m high in the city centre adjacent to office and residential blocks about the same size. Several levels and platforms are connected by grated stairs and bridges. This would make by itself a quite impressive object. At the MFO Park the structure is overgrown with about 1000 climbers of over 100 different cultivars. Over the seasons it shows impressive changes. The exposed steel frame structure in winter is rapidly transformed by the new fresh green of the vigorous growers. The green space returns and soon wisterias, roses and vines produce flowers, some effuse hints of fragrance on calm days. In summer the fully grown climbers produce enough shade to make it a pleasant place for lunch. With the glowing red of the Boston Ivy the green space retracts in autumn. Change goes beyond daytime and seasons, the ‘Park House’ becomes greener and more lush every year. Eventually there will be a green roof too.

Autumn at MFO

Summer at MFO

The large open space inside the green hall with a bound gravel surface is a perfect place for kids to play football. In evening the space is used for open air cinema, concerts and other events.  At night the space is lit-up and light reflections produce a very different atmospheric setting. During daytime the sun creates shadows of the structure and plants on the ground animating the uniform surface of the main area. Out of a sunken square covered with coloured recycled glass at the closed end of the park 4 V-shaped wired columns covered with the large leaved Pipevine emerge all the way to the top where the sun deck is located. It offers great views into the structure and over the vicinity. Lower platforms provide a more protected setting and act as inward looking balconies.

Plan & Section

The MFO Park is the second of 4 new parks built in close distance in Oerlikon, district of Zurich. Until 1980s Oerlikon was coined by industrial buildings, ABB has still its headquarters in Oerlikon. In the early 1990s the urban redevelopment of the whole area was started with a public tender. Part one of the MFO Park was finished in 2002. Unfortunately the project has not yet been completed. The building at the open end of Park House will be replaced with a square covered with tall overgrown steel poles that are bending in the wind. The building is still in use and completion of the project is pending. If you wonder, MFO stands for Maschinen Fabrik Oerlikon and the metal structure reflects the size of the original MFO building.


To me this is an inspiring concept and the project is offering new approaches to small scale urban parks. Combining a structure that can be explored with vertical planting extends the space for park visitor and offers new opportunities for animation. How about urban tree top walks with small cafes high up in the lush greenery? And also in regards to sustainable green walls this type of planting proofs after 12 years of existence to be viable and attractive alternative.


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