Lockdown at Toni — The Building in Times of Corona

Furniture assembled in the skylight hallBird models for drawing lessonsLobby outside the large concert hallKafi ZStairs to level 7Reading and working area at the Media and Information CentreOffice workstationMeeting of wastebasketsManual printing press in the printing workshopCeramics workshopStudent kitchenetteNeatly cleaned refrigerator in a kitchenetteThe “Regulars’ Table” in the entrance hallOrgan hallOrgan hallAtrium. Photographs: Lucas Ziegler

The Toni-Areal has come to a complete standstill. The popular centre for culture, education, science and society in the former dairy factory in Zurich-West is deserted. Where thousands usually come and go, absolute silence reigns. Photographer and ZHdK alumnus Lucas Ziegler has photographed the empty campus, capturing these extraordinary times.


May 2020. Since March, the situation categorised as “extraordinary” under the Federal Law on Epidemics has dictated life in Switzerland following the advent of the novel coronavirus. The Toni-Areal, too, has since fallen into a deep sleep. The atmosphere inside the building is surreal: neatly cleaned and tidied kitchens, long empty corridors, hastily assembled furniture in the skylight hall, abandoned workshops, wastebaskets left to their own devices, music halls in a state of shock. And chairs everywhere! Sometimes neatly stacked, sometimes carelessly assembled, sometimes arranged.

One’s eye for architecture is sharpened and inconspicuous places now make their grand entrance. Monotony prevails — the architecture, although self-sufficient, is ultimately meaningless and, without people, devoid of energy. Strangely, the silence enables one to perceive the building’s fittings and technology as ambient noise and makes one wish for pulsating life to return.

The photographs were taken by Lucas Ziegler on 1 May 2020. After earning a Bachelor’s in Social Work at FHNW, he completed a Bachelor’s in Art & Media at ZHdK. He has been working as a freelance photographer in Zurich since 2018.
Eva Brüllmann (eva.bruellmann@zhdk.ch) is a project manager at ZHdK University Communications. Bidding her office “Bye, bye” is not her cup of tea. She longs for personal encounters at Toni.
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