The CoLivingLab is
  • a model for a plug-in co-housing / co-working building
  • a living lab to experiment with co-housing / co-working practice
  • an incubator for co-housing / co-working projects

The intermediate use project at the site of the Merkurgarten community garden in Zürich-Hottingen combines features of successful collaborative housing, coworking spaces and living labs to realize a pioneering building type.

The site

The Merkurgarten project started in 2012. It builds on an initiative that realized a neighborhood herb garden at the same location 20 years ago with the help of the Horticulture Office. The garden project is sharing the area with an intermediate use school pavilion. In summer 2017 the retailer Migros will establish another intermediate use building for two years – a grocery store built from containers – while the Merkurgarten will move on top of this building.

Building typology

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Facade: wooden containers bridge on top of an existing music school pavilion.

72 timber construction containers on three floors are installed on top of the existing music school pavilion of the seventies. The new structure is accessible via an external staircase and an elevator. (see below) Two porticos on both longitudinal sides are serving as distribution areas and terraces. The modules of 20m2 each can be interconnected and combined to create different types of accommodation and working units alongside with communal lounges.

Ground floor plans, views from south and west. Existing building in grey.

Use concept

External elevator and staircase, portico / terrace east and west, configuration and furnishing example.

The use concept wants to enable sustainable lifestyles through sharing and efficient use of resources, space and activities. It cultivates collaboration and serendipity amongst users and the extended community. It seeks to shape an environment that inspires and empowers its residents to be active creators and participants in the world around them.

The residents can check-in for a duration of one day up to several years. Following the your+ terminology ( there are three types of rooms: my room has the greatest intimacy. It is used privately by one or two persons and contains an individual wet cell. our room is the kitchen living several individual rooms are assigned to. your room can be rented on demand for a limited period of time according to individual requirements (working space, fitness, gallery, etc.). This creates added value such as efficient use of space, social synergies, flexible use potential and low overall rent costs.

The three room types are connected by space+, which serves as a lively, communicative common area with a wide range of use potential. The space+is even offered to be used by others in the neighborhood to contribute to networking and to a lively neighborhood community.

Target group

The CoLivingLab offers a collaborative space for up to 100 people depending on the level of occupancy:

  • service providers and small-scale-enterprises strongly related to the surrounding neighborhoods Hottingen, Riesbach and Hirslanden
  • startups with social and ecological goals
  • researchers
  • artists in residence
  • people redirecting their careers

selection panel based on equal representation decides on the allocation of the spaces according to the level of innovation of the projects submitted and the intended use of the communal infrastructure.


The merging of different areas of life at a single location is expected to promote synergy with regard to their economic, social and ecologic performance. A range of innovative financing, coaching and networking programs complement the space offer and enable the participating startups and individuals an optimal start into a successful professional future.

The temporary and experimental character of the project encourages the practical testing of future-orientated communal housing and working space concepts, which frequently suffer from rigid conditions or even fail. Field research is encouraged by providing researcher in residence programs. The research in the framework of the CoLivingLab should stimulate typological innovation in cohousing and coworking projects. (ETH Wohnforum – ETH CASE


  • Attractive economic location
  • Sustainable growth
  • Unified Society
  • Sustainable energy and environmental protection

The utilization concept joining collaborative living and working, business development and research under one roof is so far unique.

It provides a concrete contribution to following future trends of housing (Zukunftsinstitut):

  • Health Environment: Urban cityscapes that define themselves through livable, sustainable and healthy spaces.
  • Smart Being: increased health consciousness, which consists of topics such as health style, vitality and quality of life. Technology to facilitate the daily life merges with health and wellbeing to a healing alliance.
  • Collaborative Living: A new form of living in cities, where the quality of life is no longer depending on the size and the equipment of the apartment, but of the additional options for use within homes and neighborhoods. Availability and access rather than ownership (sharing), asceticism of private living space and luxury of shared, outsourced housing. (Sufficiency)
  • Third Place Living: The places of work, recreation and communication ( “third places”) get new relevance given the increasing digitalization and mobility. They become active components of living.


The building serves as a pilot project for a newly developed, particularly sustainable construction system (zero carbon building element) with the following priorities:

  • Healthy room climate
  • Sustainable building materials
  • High profitability
  • Local added value
  • Aesthetic surfaces

In correlation with the existing garden project (Merkurgarten) the following other topics will be studied experimentally:

  • Integration of crops in the facade
  • Use of the roof surface for kitchen gardens
  • Use of rainwater
  • Dry toilets in apartment buildings