Engineers Conzett and Bronzini Awarded Prix Meret Oppenheim

John Hill
13. April 2022
Jürg Conzett and Gianfranco Bronzini (Photo: Screenshot from Prix Meret Oppenheim 2022 trailer)

Established in 2001 by Switzerland's Federal Office of Culture and the Federal Art Commission, the Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim is given annually to "artists and architects, curators and researchers whose work played a key role in enhancing engagement with art and architecture and have fostered cultural dialogue in Switzerland and beyond," per the award website. As announced on April 7, this year's award recipients, each of which is being given prize money of CHF 40,000, are painter Caroline Bachmann, artist Klodin Erb, and civil engineers Jürg Conzett & Gianfranco Bronzini. Recent laureates in the Architecture category include Georges Descombes (2021), Barbara Buser & Eric Honegger (2020), Meili Peter Architekten (2019), and the late Luigi Snozzi (2018). Conzett, Bronzini, and the others will receive their prizes on June 13 in Basel.

The Negrellisteg pedestrian bridge near Zurich Main Station won a Prix Acier 2021. (Photo © René Dürr, ARGE Negrellisteg)

Although the 30-year-old office of Conzett Bronzini Partner AG is known for road and pedestrian bridges in and beyond Graubünden, the Swiss canton they call home, the firm's website shows roughly as many high-rise buildings as bridges. Still, it's the bridges — traditionally more the terrain of engineers than architects — that define their output, with many of the spans following in the tradition of pioneering Swiss engineer Robert Maillart (1872–1940); the duo's portfolio actually includes the repair of at least one Maillart bridge. An early highlight by Conzett and Bronzini is the Pùnt da Suransuns, a pre-tensioned footbridge of steel and granite completed in 1999. Later works include the replacement of an old bridge in Vals (2009, with Patrick Gartmann) and, just last year, the award-winning pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks west of Zurich's Main Station. 

The replacement of an old village bridge in Vals was done by the engineers with gneiss walls that match the nearby Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
Jürg Conzett and Gianfranco Bronzini are much more than the engineers of many of Switzerland’s most beautiful bridges. Their holistic approach to design is instrumental in many works where the structure entirely defines the architecture. This universal attitude, linked to a sustainable vision for each project, is reflected in their capacity for innovation, whatever the material they are using. By choosing Conzett and Bronzini as laureates in the architecture category, the jury wishes to highlight the importance of the engineer’s art for the Baukultur.”

Statement from Federal Office of Culture

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