Zurich's Enge district, part 2 - From a noble garden suburb to a busy city district

In the 19th century, Alfred Escher and Arnold Bürkli prepared the way for the rapid development of Zurich Enge into a thriving business district featuring international companies like Swiss Re. Many buildings still bear witness to the district's history today. They are visible proof of the transition to the modern age of mobility and services.

Did you know that Swiss Re's Altbau building used to be situated right next to the tracks of the northeastern railway line? The Enge district already had its own railway station on today's Tunnelstrasse back in 1875. It used to be an important station on the line that linked up the city of Zurich with the cantons of Schwyz and Glarus. The railway tracks used to follow today's Alfred-Escher Strasse. With the rapid increase in railway traffic, the national railway company moved the line into a tunnel and built today's Enge railway station on the Tessinerplatz square in the 1920s. The former Ulmberg railway tunnel connecting the Enge and Wiedikon districts was converted and has been used as a road tunnel since then.

Villas and industrial buildings find a new purpose

Some of the first modern institutions and head offices in the Enge district established themselves on old factory sites and in former industrialists' villas. Buildings from the industrial age include the Muraltengut which was built in 1782 (now used for representative purposes by the city of Zurich), the family residence Belvoir built in 1831 by Heinrich Escher (home to a hotel management school) and right next door the Schnelligut (General Consulate of the People's Republic of China), Villa Wesendonck (Rietberg Museum) and the Freigut built by Zurich wine merchant Emanuel Hess (International Ice Hockey Association). Industrial buildings used to stand on the slope towards the river Sihl. One of these was the Hürlimann brewery, where Google today runs its biggest development facility outside the US.

Image of a modern Switzerland

Despite its wealth of historical buildings, the Enge district still offered enough room for forward looking projects. During the Swiss National Exhibition "Landi" in 1939, the image of a modern Switzerland was presented to the public on a site by the lake that still bears the name of the exhibition today. The matter-of-fact, airy construction style of many of these exhibition pavilions went down in Swiss architectural history as the "Landi style".  Today, the Landiwiese is the venue for such events as the annual Zürcher Theater Spektakel, which Swiss Re has been supporting as a partner for many years.

The arrival of the automobile

In the post-war years, the automobile launched its conquest of the streets and daily life. An excellent example to illustrate this is the "Hochhaus zur Palme" which was built on Bleicherweg 33 in 1964 and was one of the first high-rise buildings in the city of Zurich. Built by architects Max Ernst Haefeli, Werner Max Moser and Rudolf Steiger, it reaches 50 metres into the sky and on the first three floors houses a car port with a car wash, a petrol station, a take-away and parking facilities. Fully geared to an automobile society, the building was a novelty beyond the country's boundaries and attracted international attention. Typically, the "Hochhaus zur Palme" was intended and used as an office building from the very beginning. This goes well with the Enge district, which today actually has more workplaces than inhabitants.

A district for working, living and for recreation

Today, Enge is a busy city district. In terms of its population of some 9,000 inhabitants, it's one of the city's smallest districts. There are more than three times that number of workplaces in Enge, distributed over more than 1,600 companies and organisations - more than in any other Zurich city district. One of the most recent organisations to have moved into Enge is the world football association FIFA, which has set up a football museum and offices on the Tessinerplatz square. Every seventh employee in the Enge district is employed by a company which has more than 500 staff members. With more than 11,000 employees, the financial and insurance industry accounts for the lion's share. Apart from being a residential and business area, the Enge district is also very popular among people seeking recreation thanks to its attractive location by the lakeside and the many historical villas with their remaining parks. On a fine summer's day, hundreds of sun-seekers flock to the arboretum and the Mythenquai lido.