A successful precision landing

13.12.2022 | Zurich

Website Swiss Life Arena DR Dürr 1
Ralph Grund 1
Claudio Zanella

Claudio Zanella (Photo 3), Overall Project Manager Execution, and Ralph Grund (Photo 2), Head of Execution on Site, on the significance of the Swiss Life Arena (Photo 1) and the challenges in construction

Claudio Zanella, what does the Swiss Life Arena mean to you?

Zanella: I took over the project about 1.5 years ago as overall manager and rebuilt it after several personnel changes in structure and procedure. It is already my third stadium, but the Swiss Life Arena is something special among stadiums in several respects: It has no shell use, but is a pure sports palace, which is unusual for a stadium of this size. And I've never seen spectator stands so steep, something unique in Switzerland - and obviously much appreciated by the fans. We are very proud of our contribution to this "witches' cauldron"!

Ralph Grund, you were responsible for the execution on site in the final phase. How did you experience the project?

Grund: With the exception of the gymnasium at the Zurich Police and Justice Centre (PJZ), for which I was overall project manager, I had never had anything to do with sports buildings before, and in that respect alone it was a very exciting experience for me. The Swiss Life Arena is different from anything I've had the pleasure of building before. I remember the moment when I entered it for the first time in March: This gigantic building, at that time without grandstand seating and building services installations on the arena ceiling, reminded me of a cathedral from the Middle Ages. I have never seen such a huge enclosed space. The column-free roof is extremely imposing.

What was the biggest challenge?

Zanella: We worked for five months on the now universally known problems with the screws in the roof structure, from December 2021 to May 2022. The handover was split in two and only delayed by four to six weeks. Anyone who knows our business can imagine the pressure and extra effort it took for the staff to make up for most of the delay and to split the handover into two phases and bring it to the finish line.

A project of this size must have offered numerous constructional sticking points.

Zanella: You could list a few, for example the staggered floors between the training halls and the arena. Or the sprinkler systems in the training facility. And a central challenge was the high span of the roof. We needed special lifting equipment - the largest crawler cranes available in Switzerland - to assemble and lift the roof in three parts. The interior work with the various tenants was also challenging, especially with regard to catering and contracting.

From which competencies did HRS particularly benefit?

Grund: We can claim that only HRS can build a stadium of this complexity and size with these difficulties in this time. In particular, we succeeded in landing on time for the Floorball World Cup. The basis for this was our company's experience in stadium construction: Martin and Rebecca Kull have the know-how to ask the right questions at the right moment. They knew what to expect of the team and what it could achieve. And Claudio Zanella himself has already done it twice and, with the smooth transition from his job at the Circle, has carried an incredible load, chapeau!

Zanella: Thank you! I would like to pass on my thanks to the whole team and all the companies involved: What has been achieved here in a short time, despite all the obstacles, is extraordinary - and not only an architectural prestige object, but also a contribution to the common good that encourages young people to take up sport.

Claudio Zanella
, architect HTL, has worked at HRS since 2015. He was the overall project manager for The Circle at Zurich Airport and has been responsible for the execution of the Swiss Life Arena since June 2021.
Ralph Grund
is a qualified industrial engineer FH and civil engineering technician TS. He has been with HRS since 2000 and was, among other things, overall project manager of the Zurich Police and Justice Centre and, since March 2022, responsible for on-site execution at the Swiss Life Arena.

After eight years of planning and approval, construction work on the ZSC Lions' new hockey arena began in spring 2019. HRS had won a competitive process for the TU contract. In the past few months, the Swiss Life Arena was handed over to the building owner in two stages. HRS is also associated with the ZSC Lions as a main sponsor.