Jan Zachmann’s project stands in shallow water a short distance from the shore of Lake Zurich, at a point where the remains of prehistoric lake dwellings have been found. Taking the form of a water-bound restaurant accessible only by boat, it suggests itself as a re-imagining of one such structure. Constructed in timber, it is essentially no more than a single large room elevated above a pier where diners can arrive either by ferry or personal taxi service. And yet for all its modesty, this richly imagined proposal describes a place of unique and strong character.
Likening his building’s presence within the lake to that of a folly in a park Zachmann has invested it with a height and monumentality that allows it to register over long distances. However, on closer encounter the project also reveals a considerable tectonic delicacy. Its structure comprises an exoskeleton of splayed timber posts infilled with adjustable timber panels at the restaurant’s lower level and by clerestory glazing screened by a close array of timber fins above.
Diners can lift the side panels to open tangential views down to the water but the only long vistas – one to the city and the other to the mountains – are framed at the room’s two ends. The restaurant’s sense of containment, as well as its height and axiality all contribute to a rather ecclesiastical character. If there is an altar it is the open kitchen and bar, which divides the room into a dining area and a smaller cafeteria.
This is a project that could have remained at the level of atmospheric fantasy but as illustrated in Zachmann’s refined timber models and construction drawings, Fish & Ships has attained a level of plausibility without losing any of the poetry of its original premise.
A thoughtful and sophisticated project, understanding precedent as possibility rather than indulging in simplistic flights of fancy, it presents a rather small but tectonically accomplished and beautifully resolved building. Excellent drawings, photographs and models compose a convincing picture. This is one of the very few projects submitted this year that I could easily imagine being in, and actually wanted to!