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The Circle: A Smart Micro-City Within Zurich Airport

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As their planes descend on the Zurich Airport, passengers can catch a glimpse of a boomerang-shaped structure enveloping a 80,000 square-meter greenery and an attractive complex that will fulfill all their needs. What the travelers might see is The Circle, an upscale complex for innovative services within walking distance of the terminals. Completed in 2020, it’s the newest addition to Switzerland’s largest international airport.

“Look for yesterday’s busiest train terminals and you will find today’s great urban centers. Look for today’s biggest airports and you will find the great urban centers of tomorrow,” writes John D. Kasarda, a US academic who has been studying aviation-driven economic development for decades.

Built true to this vision, The Circle is more of a micro-city than a business center or an airport terminal that contains future-forward office spaces and marketplaces, as well as gastronomic and cultural venues, plus a public park.

The Circle: A Swiss Take on Diver(c)ity

The design brief of the project had three requirements: Swissness, surprise, and connections to the world. The architect Riken Yamamoto interpreted the first requirement as precision, reflected in a sleek design featuring slender columns and cutting-edge urbanism.

The high-tech buildings in the complex drew their inspirations from medieval Swiss towns, which were bustling commerce and cultural centers that attracted visitors of all backgrounds and interests.

While The Circle retains the same charm and spirit, it’s armed with the most advanced design and architectural features fit for the new lifestyles of the 21st-century travelers.

Sensitivities about the environment considered, the micro-city boasts a LEED® PLATINUM, the highest standard awarded by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). This entails sustainable construction, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, location, and innovative development.

A Lifestyle Destination Within a Destination

An investment of USD 1.3 billion, The Circle is Switzerland’s biggest commercial development to date. Sitting a 10-minute train ride away from the Zurich city center, the lifestyle and business complex is also walking distance from the terminal.

On the floor space of 180,000 m2, architect Riken Yamamoto had a balanced approach for different needs. Within The Circle, there are facilities for Health & Beauty (10,000 m2), Education & Knowledge (8,500 m2), Culture & Events (5,000 m2), Brands & Dialogue (17,000 m2), Counsel & Services (7,000 m2), Hotels & Serviced Apartments, (45,000 m2), Headquarters & Offices, (70,000 m2), as well as storage space (15,000 m2).

Swiss authorities believe that particularly the art and events functions, which will appeal to luxury and avant-garde lovers, will attract new visitors and forge more connections in the city.

The Circle incorporates a lot of very innovative retail and catering concepts that will have an impact on the increasing popularity of Zurich,” says Martin Sturzenegger, director of Zurich Tourism.

Zurich will experience a pulse and will get more recognized, especially when it comes to conventions.

Martin Sturzenegger, director of Zurich Tourism.

The Circle Expected to Facilitate Growth and Cooperation

A large body of research reveals aviation is a crucial facilitator of global connectivity and cooperation. Good airports and their facilities foster social and economic development locally and regionally.

This is a pioneering initiative; the airport city concept, but on a global level.

Stephan Widrig, CEO of the Zurich Airport, about The Circle.

Stephan Widrig, CEO of the Zurich Airport, believes airports have a fundamental responsibility to inspire the future of not just cities, but also the planet – and often act as bridges between now and the future. He adds, “Aviation is connecting people and economies in a world that has become one global planet. [The] population is growing and will continue to do so. Even global challenges – such as climate action, migration or pandemics – need a world that is closely connected in order to address these common challenges.”

Horváth & Partners, an international management consultancy, is among the companies to relocate to The Circle, intending to accelerate its global perspective and growth. “The new office provides us with an optimal infrastructure, a logistical advantage (close proximity to the airport) and enables further growth,” said Ulrich Teuscher, Switzerland country manager of Horváth & Partners.

In a time when mobility and connection are more important than ever, state-of-the-art developments such as The Circle are set to usher a 21st-century renaissance in both business and culture.

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