Zurich Chinese Garden – Part I (December 2019)

Zurich Chinese Garden – Part I (December 2019)


One of the things that I like doing is walking around, ideally having the camera with me. Well, that’s mostly true, since in Germany I didn’t really feel the mood to walk around with the camera.

That is not true in Zurich, in which I have been living the last 1.5 months now. I still cannot put my finger on it but it feels like a more “walkable” place, without the huge distances that are common in Munich. I suspect this has to do with the lake that reminds me of home a bit.

Regardless, the first month in here was me getting busy with settling in, but after that was done, I was ready! I decided then for my first photo opportunity to visit the Chinagarten, or Chinese Garden.

The Chinese Garden… or not yet…

Wikipedia states:
The garden is a gift by Zürich’s Chinese partner town Kunming, as thanks for Zürich’s technical and scientific assistance in the development of the Kunming city drinking water supply and drainage.

Inside apparently there is a traditional Chinese Garden, the likes of which you are bound to have seen in movies (or the game Jade Empire for those of you who remember it).

I am saying apparently, because unfortunately… I was unprepared. The Chinese Garden is closed in the winter and opens again in the spring. Oh well, there was still a nice park to walk around to with quite a few sculptures lying around.

The Park

The area is named Blatterwiese and you can easily get there by taking the Tram from the Opera House. You walk around for 5-6 minutes aftewards and soon you find yourself in the park.

One of the first sights near the park is the Le Corbusier museum (not Courvoisier!). His original name was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (1887 and 1965). The museum is the colourful building with the puddle you see in the second photo. I did not have the chance to visit the museum but I do plan to pay a visit in the second part of this guide… in the Spring!

I encountered a very interesting sculpture as I delved a bit deeper in the park (you can see it in the third photo). The sculpture is called Erected Cross by Mary Vieira, a Brazilian sculptor. I am unfamiliar with her work, but the particular super-confined geometric art style is not uncommon to me.

The sculpture of the nude lady is called Sitzende (Sedentary) by Hermann Hubacher (lived about the same twho ime as Le Corbusier). Unfortunately I could not find much information about the sculpture, but I did find out that its creator moved to Zurich after the war, since it was one of the few places where art exchange was still functional. He has many other similar sculptures similar in vein, but is definitely not an artist that I could name prior to visiting the park.

However the sculpture that followed was one of the most impressive ones. It is called Heureka! (from the greek Eureka, which means “I found it!”, in the form of an exclamation, typically attributed to Archimedes). The sculpture is big and impressive and… it makes no sense! It looks like a weird locomotive engine, but you cannot quite put your finger on what it might be actually doing!

And this is exactly its purpose… or lack thereof! The sculpture is made by Jean Tinguely who is known for similar pieces in the same vein. Atlas Obscura states:

The Heureka sculpture is made from everyday objects like scrap metal and junk; it’s comprised of various tubes, wheels, iron bars, metal pipes, and electric motors assembled together to create an intricate machine when turned on — or rather, the illusion of one.

Tinguely meant there to be humor in the creation, a poetic recycling of the industrial world. He was a follower of the French Nouveau Réalisme art movement, a 1960s avant-garde style that incorporated elements of the real world and everyday life into artworks, creating a new way to perceive reality.


Atlas Obscura also states that the machine is actually operational! Apparently “From April to October the sculpture is turned on every day at 11:00, 15:00 and 19:00 for 8 minutes“. I really need to visit the park again…

Finally, the last sculpture is a stone sphere. That’s actually half of the story though, because it’s actually a Ball Fountain. It gets even more impressive if you consider that this is a very heavy stone sphere that you can actually rotate in all axes using your hands, something achieved by virtue of the water coming from the bottom that provides just enough of a lift to allow you to rotate it in place, as this video here shows.

Unfortunately when I was here the sphere did not work. I am not sure if there is a season limit like with the other exhibits, but I’ll try to give it another go in the Spring.

I usually don’t plan ahead before I visit a place since discovery is part of the game. I might need to re-evaluate my strategy next time though and try to do a bit of research. It was a very enjoyable walk however, a very nice place with quite a few things to see, though I only saw half of the park and did not get to visit the main attraction. Bis zum nächsten Mal!

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