Sechseläutenplatz, Zürich

<span class="nickname" ">Sechseläutenplatz

Sechseläutenplatz as seen from the temporary pedestrian crossing towards Utoquai in June 2015
Former name(s) Sechseläutenwiese; Theaterplatz; Stadelhoferbollwerk
Type city square
Owner City of Zürich
Addresses Sechseläutenplatz
Location Zürich, Switzerland
Postal code CH-8001
Coordinates 47°21′57.96″N 8°32′45.24″E / 47.3661000°N 8.5459000°E / 47.3661000; 8.5459000Coordinates: 47°21′57.96″N 8°32′45.24″E / 47.3661000°N 8.5459000°E / 47.3661000; 8.5459000
Construction start 11 Mai 2009
Completion 31 January 2014 (Opéra parking)
Inauguration 22 April 2014

Sechseläutenplatz is a town square situated in Zürich, Switzerland and is the largest one within the city. It takes its name from the Sechseläuten, the city's traditional spring holiday which is celebrated on the square in early April.


Sechseläutenplatz is located on the Lake Zurich shore just to the south of the point where the lake flows out into the Limmat and the Schanzengraben moat. The plaza is bounded to the south by the linked Opernhaus and Bernhardtheater buildings, to the west by the Utoquai, and to the east by Theaterstrasse. Stadelhoferplatz, with the Stadelhofen railway station and the terminus of the Forchbahn (FOB), lies immediately across Theaterstrasse. To the north, Sechseläutenplatz merges into Bellevueplatz, with its stops for the Zürich tram lines 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11 and 15.

On November 30, 2011, the government of Zürich announced that some streets will be renamed by redesigning the public area at Sechseläutenplatz. Theaterplatz will be part of the Sechseläutenplatz area, Gottfried-Keller-Strasse and Goethestrasse partially repealed. The residents have been informed that they will be addressed as Sechseläutenplatz 1 to 10. In all, Sechseläutenplatz covers an area of about 16,000 m2 (170,000 sq ft).



The area has been internationally known since 2009, when the beginning of the construction of an underground parking facility uncovered the remains of Prehistoric pile dwellings around Lake Zurich.[1][2] In the immediate vicinity of the wetland soil settlement, Kleiner Hafner, in the lower basin of Lake Zurich, remains were found. Instead of a rescue excavation, the construction works were suspended for nine months and the settlement remains were systematically archaeologically recorded. The results of the excavations are permanently shown in the pavilion next to the lakeshore.

Located on what was then swamp land between Limmat and Lake Zurich around Sechseläutzenplatz–Bürkliplatz, the Prehistoric pile dwellings around Lake Zurich were set on piles to protect against occasional flooding by the Linth and Jona. The Neolithic settlement Zürich–Enge Alpenquai is located at the Bürkliplatz in Enge,[3] a locality of the municipality of Zürich. It was neighbored by the settlements at Kleiner Hafner (a former island/peninsula at Sechseläutenplatz) and Grosser Hafner island (which is also part of the Celtic and Gallo-Roman settlement area) in the effluence of the Limmat, within an area of about 0.2 square kilometres (49.42 acres) in the heart of the city of Zürich.

Once a former island or peninsula at the estuary of Zürichsee lakeshore and the Limmat, the settlement Kleiner Hafner including the former Grosser Hafner island are very rare sites because all periods of pile dwelling are represented. There are finds from the Neolithic Egolzwil, Cortaillod and Horgen cultures, forming an important reference assemblage which allows to study the cultural development during the late 5th and early 4th millennia BC.[4]

The prehistoric settlements in the lower Lake Zurich area (among them Kleiner Hafner and Grosser Hafner) are part of the site of Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of 111 locations with the greatest scientific potential.[5]

Since the middle ages

In the late European Middle Ages, the Sechseläutenplatz (literally: Sechseläuten square) area was the location of the former military harbour of the city of Zürich respectively part of the so-called Stadelhoferbollwerk bastion on Lake Zurich lakeshore. The former Stadelhofer bulwark was built as part of the so-called fourth city fortifications in 1643 AD. The bastion was built partly into the lake. In 1673, the Stadelhofen ravelin was attached but later was completely broken in 1837/38.[6][7]

First mentioned in 1896 as Sechseläutenplatz, the Tonhalle (opened in 1867) respectively former Kornhaus (used from 1839 to 1860) building was broken, and from around the 1910s to 2008 the place was a meadow commonly known as Sechseläutenwiese. It was used since 1902 for the Sechseläuten in spring and for other events. One of them being the Circus Knie. It also became also the home of the Opernhaus Zürich and of the Grand Café Esplanade which was built by J. Pfister Picault in 1925. On 19/20 December 1941, the Bernhard-Theater Zürich opened as an entertainment theater for plays, farces and comedies in the Swiss-German language. To ensure the food supply of the city population in wartimes, potatoes were planted in November 1940 on the Sechseläutenwiese (literally: meadow). In May 1981, the Esplanade building was demolished and the present Bernhard-Theater was re-opened on 27/28 December 1984 after three years of transition. In the Kaufhaus building nearby, Schanzengraben respectively the Old Botanical Garden is located. The area towards to the Opernhaus-Bernhardtheater was used as a parking facility from the 1960s until 2008.


Due to a referendum, the construction work did not start as planned in January 2012 – the voters of the city of Zürich agreed on 23 September 2012 the object credit for the redesign of the square with 60.7%. In January 2013, the main work was started and about a year later the redesigned Sechseläutenplatz was inaugurated. The cost of the redesigning sums for the city of Zürich amounted to 17.2 million Swiss Francs, of which 10,250,000 were used on the renewal, road drainage and superstructure of the neighboring roads.[8] The total costs for square design and construction works sums to around CHF 28 million of which 11 million are paid by the canton of Zürich. The degradation of a car lane on the Utoquai roadway caused to a bitter dispute between the city and the canton of Zürich. The district court issued a decision in favor of the city's interest.[9] The planning works were done by Zach + Zünd Architekten, Vetsch Nipkow Landschaftsarchitekten, Heyer Kaufmann Bauingenieure.


The opening of the underground parking facility, for the Opéra and the Münsterhof square, replaced the surface parking facilities to the underground parking and expanded the public square towards the Opera House. The aim of the city government was to "upgrade for pedestrians in and in Zürich at a central location, to create a place with international appeal".[8] A total of 110,000 blocks of stone from Vals quartzite – 10 to 13 centimetres (5 in) wide and between 50 and 130 centimetres (51 in) long – form the square. The material was thoroughly and tested over a long period, with respect to cleaning, slip resistance or behavior during prolonged heat. To exclude damage on burning of the Böögg and extensively use on occasion of Sechseläuten, a shell of firebrick was installed. Additionally, the impact of elephant dung on the Vals quartzite was tested and anchorages for the Knie's circus tent firmly integrated in the surface structure.[10][11] The natural stone tiles of the Vals quartzite occupies an area of 12,600 square metres (135,625 sq ft). The last stones were laid on 19 November 2013, three weeks earlier than planned. In February and March 2014, 56 seven-year-old red oaks and tulip trees were planted. These varieties were particularly suitable for a good inner city location.[9][12]

Infrastructure and fountain

entrance to the underground infrastructure

Accessible by a staircase that is below a six-ton facade of steel and stones, the civil engineering department of the city of Zürich provides the 'hidden' infrastructure below the groundwater level, which specifies the Lake Zürich. In an underground room, the power for the lighting is spread over miles of cable with the electrical energy for the machines in a second room. Here 51 hoppers mounted in metal are also located. These are the nozzles through which splash water at the upper end goes through. It is the most elaborate water feature that Zürich has seen so far. The water flow to each nozzle is controlled individually and enables up to eight meters high fountains, which in normal operation would pop up to two meters or less. On the surface of the fountain, there is a collection of circular jets and in between it has small, round bumps. These are all surrounded by slots where the majority of the water flows back again into a chamber which is located next to the dozens of pipes, pumps and controls. Small stones, sand etc. is collected and washed down. From this chamber, the water passes into a second chamber that is 24 cubic meters large. Subsequently, the well water is pumped through three filter systems for processing with chlorine and glass water then filters out again. The purified water passes through a third chamber into the 51 pipes. These pipes may be programmed accurately and the water jets can even accompany a piece of music. In each nozzle is a white LED light that illuminates the water from below in the night. In all, 1.5 million Swiss Francs were paid for the design.[13]

Activities and sights

Circus Knie as seen from Opernhaus towards Bellueveplatz

According to the government's concept, the area may be used for events for at least 180 days. Among them are Circus Knie, Sechseläuten and the Zurich Film Festival. In the summer months the place must have full public access for at least 120 days per year to fulfill its function as the main inner-city space. Events are limited to the area of the former Sechseläutenwiese. The former Theaterplatz square in front of the Opera House has to serve as the connection between Stadelhoferplatz and the Lake Zurich lakeshore. The city's authorities declared the area between Stadelhofen station and Sechseläutenplatz as car-free zone.[8] Wienachtsmärt, a Christmas fair, is a new event that started for the first time in 2015 and opened on November 19 by Zürich's mayor Corine Mauch. It had about 100 huts presenting modern design products and traditional handicrafts.[14]

Parking Opéra

Opened in May 2012, the parking garage houses two parking levels for 299 cars. The parking facility is operated by the Opéra AG, a consortium of the companies Hardturmstrasse AG and AMAG. Up to 50 parking spaces are reserved for long-term tenants. The entrance is situated at Falkenstrasse/Schillerstrasse. On Sechseläutenplatz, there are two pavilions to access by pedestrians. In one of the pavilions, a boulevard café is housed. Finds of the excavation and an overview of the findings are presented in the second pavilion (Archäologie im Parkhaus Opera) on two floors.[15]

Cultural Heritage and protection

As being part of the 56 Swiss sites of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps,[2][16] the Neolithic, Celtic and Gallo-Roman settlements are also listed in the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance as Class objects.[17] Hence, the area is provided as a historical site under federal protection, within the meaning of the Swiss Federal Act on the nature and cultural heritage (German: Bundesgesetz über den Natur- und Heimatschutz NHG) of 1 July 1966. Unauthorised researching and purposeful gathering of findings represent a criminal offense according to Art. 24.[18]


See also


  1. "Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in Switzerland". Swiss Coordination Group UNESCO Palafittes ( Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  2. 1 2 "World Heritage". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  3. Dölf Wild (2008-09-25). "Zürcher City unter Wasser. Interaktion zwischen Natur und Mensch in der Frühzeit Zürichs" (in German). Hochdepartement der Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
  4. "Fundstellen Schweiz im UNESCO-Weltkulturerbe: Kleiner Hafner und Grosser Hafer (CH-ZH-10)" (in German). Retrieved 2014-10-31.
  5. "UNESCO World Heritage Site – Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps". UNESCO. 2011-06-21. Retrieved 2014-11-01.
  6. "Stadelhoferbollwerk" (in German). Gang dur Alt-Züri. Retrieved 2014-10-29.
  7. "MM 2.36 RRB 1837/0889 Schreiben der Vorsteherschaft der hiesigen Kaufleute wegen Ueberlaßung einiger Stücke Schanzenland auf dem Stadelhoferbo... (1837.05.27)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  8. 1 2 3 "Neugestaltung Sechseläutenplatz" (in German). Stadt Zürich, Tiefbau und Entsorgungsdepartement. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  9. 1 2 Thomas Schraner (2013-11-19). "High Noon für den letzten Valser Quarzit auf dem Sechseläutenplatz" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. Retrieved 2014-11-01.
  10. "Sechseläuten-Platz: Jetzt werden die Steine verlegt" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  11. "Dossier:Der neue Sechseläutenplatz" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  12. "Sechseläutenlatz: Feuerprobe bestanden" (in German). Schweiz aktuell. 2014-04-29. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  13. Simon Eppenberger (2014-01-29). "Die Maschine unter dem Sechseläutenplatz" (in German). Tages-Anzeiger. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  14. "In drei Wochen kehrt das Zürcher Wienachtsdorf auf dem Sechseläutenplatz ein" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  15. "Uralte Zeitzeugen unter dem modernsten Parkhaus Zürichs" (in German). 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  16. "Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in Switzerland". Swiss Coordination Group UNESCO Palafittes ( Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  17. "A-Objekte KGS-Inventar". Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, Amt für Bevölkerungsschutz. 2009. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  18. "Bundesgesetz über den Natur- und Heimatschutz (NHG)" (PDF) (in German). Hochbaudepartement Stadt Zürich. 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2015-08-21.
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