City of Bern


Bern, Switzerland


Residential, trade, services, school, open spaces, park


ca. 20ha


Selective competition, 2nd place housing


Vogt Landschaftsarchitekten AG
Porta Ingenieure Planer Geometer AG
Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH
Dr. Lüchinger+Meyer Bauingenieure AG


Urban design

On the Viererfeld plateau above the Aare, which is framed by trees and with a view of the Bernese Alps, a new quarter is created. A space of possibilities opens between the city and the public park which can be used for the most diverse ideas and initiatives.

The result is a multifaceted place — green and densely populated, with reduced traffic and yet easily accessed, with both familiar and experimental building typologies. It features narrowly scaled urban spaces and wide landscaped areas ranging from a very intimate to a very public. This layout offers spaces for a variety of lifestyles. What they all have in common is a commitment to the neighborhood, a variety of interactions and short distances.

On the east, along Engestrasse, the urban facade which follows Neubrück- and Engestrasse from the city center, continues to a block typology. Together with the generous existing avenue, it results in a classic type of urban settlement with a public pathway, entrance zones, quiet courtyards and transversal alleys which could be often found in Bern.

The Inner-Enge-Square leads to Viererfeldgasse, which is the main thoroughfare and provides access to the area on foot. The main address, the most important commercial use, and the most public functions are located on the square. Along Viererfeldgassse, which is more a meeting area than a street, neighborhood life enfolds. The alley narrows and widens into squares and terraces which are crossed by pathways. It becomes the central meeting place which characterizes the quarter.

The “+Helferchen” are built interventions with community-added-value that are foreseen with the new master plan. They create a human scale despite the high density of the area.

To the west, freely buildable plots allow individual buildings, row houses, and clusters to create an urban ensemble, surrounded by communal open space that is facing and intertwining with the park. Here one can experiment with new building typologies. Several generic typologies and specific activators are defined with the master plan. Many pathways lead through this area to the large public open space, while the porosity increases towards the landscape. At the entrance square, the building typologies change, and individual buildings become prelude followed by a block typology that closes the area from the public park.

In the middle area on Neubrückstrasse, a high-rise building of 50 meters acts as a regional marker of “city entrance”. Together with the Burgerspittel and the Lindenhofspital a series of landmarks will be created along with areas for sports and university use.

At the other end of the area, a new school building and gymnasium form an ensemble together with the Engeschulhaus, which dates from 1909/1911 which is in in dialogue with the Burgerspittel.



Flexible floor plans enable a differentiated mix of apartments that adapt to social change and provide spaces for a heterogeneous society with individual lifestyles.

Compact building volumes ensure efficient and economical implementation conceived without architectural extravagance. Instead, they offer inexpensive living space, characterized by differentiated floor plans and high interior spatial qualities.

The principle of the “+Helferchen” creates spaces of possibility. They act as catalysts in the community and give the buildings an individual and unmistakable character and identity on both spatial and narrative levels.  Arcades, studios, workshops, greenhouses, common rooms, laundry rooms and open areas for exchange and encounters offer programmable and adaptive spaces that connect the buildings to each other.

On the roof, a photovoltaic system generates energy, rainwater is collected, gardens are growing fresh produce and celebrations take place.

Sustainable construction methods using composite wood ceilings and timber-frame facades reduce the gray-energy to a minimum and promote resource-conscious architecture. Only the building core and wet clusters are constructed with prefabricated elements. As a modern alternative to conventional construction materials, wood can be utilized for both construction and insulation and has excellent physical properties. Wood as material is especially suitable for multistory residential buildings and fits in the 2000W strategy and climate protection goals.

The reduction of the exposed window area is a design principle. Solid street facing facades give the buildings a sense of security and reduce the solar input to an appropriate level. Towards the courtyard, the buildings open and offer generous views and private open spaces. The large glazing on this side is naturally shaded by the construction detailing of the outer surfaces. Winter gardens serve as climate buffers and extend the living space all year round.

(“Helferchen”, © HHF Architekten)



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Urban System Research

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Winterthur 2040
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Harvard University Graduate School of Design / The Industrious City
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Zürich office

Flüelastrasse 10 8048 Zürich Switzerland (Google Maps)
T. +41 (0)43 243 6313 F. +41 (0)43 243 6315

Kyoto office

Jimukinoueda bldg. 602 21 Sakaimachi Gojo-Takakurakado Shimogyoku Kyoto Japan
T. +81 (0)75 744 1503