The Swissair headquarters building was conceived as a distinctive formal composition that would stand in contrast to the building’s nondescript suburban environment. The key decision guiding the design process was to recess the building into the ground, accommodating the height restrictions imposed by local zoning guidelines while still fulfilling the requirements of a varied and extensive program. The recessed lower floor also enabled a highly sculptural interaction between the building’s architecture and the dynamic topography of its site, creating inviting outdoor spaces for the company’s staff and establishing a new prototype for exurban office buildings.
Because of the site’s dramatic contours, what is apparently a three-story office building when approached from the street actually houses a substantially larger program, including conference centers, employee dining, and other support functions under the building’s east wing and three additional office levels under its west wing. The building’s circulation and open-plan workspaces follow a rigorous orthogonal composition, maximizing efficiency while also allowing flexible subdivision of space according to the company’s shifting needs. The building’s varied elevations interact with the surrounding landscape to shelter the building visually and acoustically from a nearby highway while also creating connections to adjacent outdoor spaces and bringing ample light, air, and views of the surrounding natural environment into the building’s interior.
The building has been designed to provide all employees with maximus access to daylight and fresh air, including operable windows on the entire north facade and a three-story linear atrium on the south side of the building that substantially increases the energy efficiency of the building while also providing an ideal work environment.