Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Alfredo Häberli’s Zürich

The Argentinian-born product designer has collaborated with such internationally renowned companies as Iittala, Moroso, Driade, Zanotta, Vitra and Georg Jensen.

December 17 2011
Dominic Lutyens

“On Friday evenings, after a week of hard work, I often go for a stroll in the 18th-century Botanical Garden in the centre of Zürich. It’s amazingly peaceful. Then I’ll head to the nearby Kronenhalle restaurant, close to where the River Limmat widens to become Lake Zürich. I’ll have a whisky sour at the bar, a wonderful place with a very arty history: the furniture is designed by Diego Giacometti, the brother of the sculptor. During the second world war artists such as Picasso and Chagall stayed in rooms here. They paid for them with paintings, some of which are still here. Then I’ll have dinner at the restaurant: usually a green salad, a dish of veal in a cream sauce called Züri Geschnetzeltes, and chocolate mousse.

I’ll head next to the nearby Odeon bar for a nightcap – a Negroni or a whisky – before bed. Odeon is another legendary spot where artists and writers, such as Günter Grass and James Joyce, discussed politics and ideas. It has a mixed crowd.

On Saturday, I’ll have breakfast – cappuccino and Bircher muesli stuffed with berries – at a café called Schwarzenbach between 10am and 11am. Its interior is by famous local architect Stefan Zwicky. It’s very small, so I usually go alone and read the paper. I often go on to Fidelio, a really interesting boutique that sells on-trend fashion by labels such as Martin Margiela. And I’ll visit the Hackett store. I’m very tall and thin, and its clothes suit my body shape. Fashion inspires me on a subconscious level.

Another favourite port of call is Jim Gerber on Rämistrasse, one of the best vintage-watch sellers in Europe. Jim never pressures you to buy anything. He likes to find something that suits you, otherwise he prefers not to sell it. We sometimes swap pieces: I’ll give him one of my sofa designs for one of his watches.

I often have a very late lunch – around 4pm – at the Kunsthaus, the city’s main art museum. The restaurant is in the lobby, which has fabulous Alexander Calder mobiles. I’ll have a light meal. The museum puts on fantastic exhibitions – a recent one was on Picasso – though it also shows contemporary art.

Emerging from there, I’ll go to the old part of town and visit a wonderful flower store, Urs Bergmann, on Marktgasse. I love cars, so another haunt is Andy’s Motorbooks, which sells the best books on cars. It’s intriguingly chaotic.

If I’m not carrying much, I often take a tram or ride a bike to the fifth quarter, formerly an industrial area to the east of the city. First I’ll pop into the Freitag Tower. It’s constructed of piled-up shipping containers and houses the shop Freitag, which sells bags and accessories made of recycled canvas tarpaulins that used to cover goods on lorries. It’s a great place for presents: I might buy my wife, Stefanie, who’s a graphic designer, an iPhone sleeve, for example.

Then I go to Restaurant Rosso, in an old industrial building on the same street, with a very raw interior. It attracts creatives – architects, photographers. I sometimes go with a gang of friends.

On Sunday mornings, I have breakfast in bed at about 10am. Then I’ll hop on the number 4 tram to the Le Corbusier house on the lake, the architect’s last building, created entirely in steel and glass. Very few people know about it. There are lots of museums on this line, so I’ll jump off the tram now and then. The Museum für Gestaltung, a design museum affiliated to Zürich’s main design school, where I had an exhibition in 2008, is always worth a visit.

At the tramline’s terminus, there’s a riverside resort on a tiny island called Werdinsel. You can swim in the river, so I’ll go for a dip. It’s nice to take things slowly, switch off in natural surroundings, before another hectic week begins.”

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