Discover Germany, Issue 53, August 2017

Page 92

Discover Germany  |  Special Theme  |  Architecture Special Switzerland

Retirement and nursing home Seegarten, Hünibach; competition first prize.

Off the beaten path Swiss architect Kathrin Simmen tells us how work experiences in China and Spain, as well as personal experiences with her family, have all inspired her to become a very diversified, young and aspiring Zurich-based architect. TEXT: SONJA IRANI  I  PHOTOS: KATHRINSIMMEN ARCHITEKTEN

In the summer of 2012, Kathrin Simmen founded her own architecture office kathrinsimmen Architekten in Zurich and simultaneously started as teaching assistant at the ETH Zürich for the visiting chair of Mathys & Stücheli Architekten. Prior to that, she gained a great deal of practical experiences – both in her home country of Switzerland and abroad. Building a business “In 2005, I spent six months in Nanjing, China during my postgrad studies and was 92  |  Issue 53  |  August 2017

looking forward to learning and experiencing as much as I could about Chinese architecture,”remembers Simmen.“But this was 12 years ago and, at that time, there was still a lot of scepticism – especially towards western foreigners. So getting an insight into the Chinese architectural business wasn’t so easy.” Simmen also spent a year in Madrid, Spain from 2010 to 2011, just after the economic crash. Naturally, there wasn’t much construction going on. “However, during this time, I was assigned with the task to plan an office building back

home in Switzerland,”remembers Simmen. “By working on this all by myself while still in Spain, I was able to really refine my skills of working independently. This experience strengthened my desire to start my own business when I returned home.” Nursing homes with a difference “Looking at my portfolio, it seems like I have a special preference for retirement homes,” she says. “I think there are several factors that contributed to this, among them the market situation at the time, lucky coincidences and a very personal experience. My grandmother spent the last few years of her lifetime in a nursing home. But she often felt lost and insecure. I started to realise that the nursing home didn’t really cater for her needs at the time.”