You talkin’ to me – Du Pont’s construction site viewing

An outstanding finale for this year’s internal continuing education program awaited our staff in December. Our last lunch-break colloquium brought us to the heart of Zurich, next to the Beatenplatz, where currently the comprehensive conversion of the historic office building Du Pont to a modern city-hotel is being undertaken, within the scope of a complex renovation project.
The graffito “You talkin’ to me” – a famous quote from the film “Taxi Driver” – sprayed on the wall of the old cinema hall, reminds the past renowned fame of the building for being home to a movie theatre during the last hundred years and also served as an accurate motivation motto for our team – likewise Robert De Niro – to prepare themselves for the impressive viewing of the construction site.
The historic building Du Pont, with its pioneering ground-breaking structure of reinforced concrete, was constructed between 1912 and 1913 and is a work of the swiss civil engineer Morel, a Maillart’s disciple. Not only could our two responsible engineers shared on-site their countless experiences, analyses and approaches to the rest of the team, but also have the complete raw, laid-open structure at their disposal to describe all the fascinating details of this hundred-year-old reinforced concrete building. The audacity and consistency with which the designers applied this new building material and at the same time engineered such an effective and flexible structural system, further justifies its preservation and commands our full respect for their work.

During the site viewing, the trace of the long building’s history and the former numerous conversions, as well as not fewer past renovation’s offence, were disclosed, underlying all the challenges that the current designers had to face during the planning and execution phases. We were also delighted to hear how all the designing hassle concerning the existing structure were carried out and how this recognised and cultural heritage protected reinforced concrete building can be strengthened with full respect and appreciation to the original pioneer work, extending their service life for further decades. The viewing of the construction works, which currently stretch across the nine floors of the building, underlined the high technical requirements of this project and made our engineer and designer’s hearts beat a little faster.