Though it’s been around for ages, ÉCAL recently got a new home, a renovated stockings factory designed by Bernard Tschumi. Following an industry-meets-Corbu aesthetic, the giant, corrugated metal building has periodic yellow, red and blue accents. An undulating rain screen on the main façade gives the serious edifice a somewhat softer, playful feel. Inside we got the proper tour from the school’s director Pierre Keller, though a chance encounter with Dimitri Bruni of the Zurich-based graphic design firm Norm was a highlight for me and a fellow tourmate, graphic designer Simon Johnston.
I also met a young designer named Camille Scherrer currently working at the EPFL + ÉCAL laboratory on the ÉCAL campus. The space is dedicated to cross-disciplinary research, exposing designers, artists and engineers to a variety of projects and worldviews. Scherrer won the Grand Prize of the TALENT 08 exhibition at the Designhuis in Eindhoven, one of Europe’s most prestigious student prizes.
From ÉCAL we moved on to EPFL to take a hardhat tour of the new Rolex Learning Center by SANAA Architects. The rolling hills and circular voids of the new building’s roofline refer to the distant Alps, and as our guide put it, "Whenever the Swiss see something flat they simply have to make mountains." The building is set for completion in September and will house classrooms, meeting areas and become the new architectural center of the campus.
Lunch and a train ride back to Zurich were next, and we closed out the trip in style with a cruise on Lake Zurich, a splendid tasting at Winery Schipf and an amazing dinner on the shores of Lake Zurich in Erlenbach. A late-night excursion to the Santiago Calatrava tram station Stadlehofen followed by drinks at Terrasse rounded out the night. After a quick sleep, it was time to board my flight back to San Francisco. Au revoir et merci pour la Suisse!
Aaron writes the men's style column "The Pocket Square" for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and others.