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Building stones in Zurich – Trends throughout the centuries

Would you like an out-of-the-ordinary city tour? Join us for a tour of Zurich that focuses on architecture and building stones.


focusTerra and the Swiss Geotechnical Commission take you on a geological tour of some of the city’s historical monuments. Old and new buildings feature a colourful palette of different rocks. You will learn what building stones were fashionable in Zurich throughout the centuries and why the ETH main building is made of artificial stone that looks deceptively genuine even to a geologist’s trained eye.

On our walk over the city’s moraines (mounds of glacial debris) we can see the influence that the rock transported here by glaciers had on the construction of buildings in Zurich. For example, an erratic block from the last ice age became the foundation of a house in the Niederdorf, and the medieval town wall features a colourful spectrum of rocks from the Glarus Alps mixed with boulders from the Sihl river (see photo).

At the main station, we find the globalised world shining in black Gabbro (a remote relative of granite) from South Africa and white marble from Italy. The facades of the National Museum and the Liebfrauen church were built with a porous calcareous tufa from Toggenburg whose natural deposits have by now either disappeared or been placed under protection. Calcareous tufa was a highly fashionable rock at the time, like travertine today.

Registration form for private city tours

Next public city tour

Meeting point entrance to focusTerra, attendence is free. Tour will be in German

3 May 2017, City guide

Geologische Stadtführung - Bausteine in Zürich, Trends durch die Jahrhunderte

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