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In 1993 the brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag founded FREITAG. Legend has it that they were inspired by the heavy traffic that hummed through Zurich in front of their shared flat, in transit from Hamburg in Germany to Palermo in Italy. They designed a Messenger Bag made of old truck tarpaulins, used cycle inner tubes and car seat belts.


Now, thirteen years later, the brothers are still making FREITAG bags, almost completely “Made in Zurich”. Their FREITAG Factory is located in the middle of the city – in the former Maag industrial estate beside Hardbrucke, within sight of their old flat. In producing 120,000 individual bags per year (they employ 45 staff members, including shop assistants) they use 200 tons of truck tarpaulins, 75,000 bicycle inner tubes and 25’000 car seat belts.

Besides various selected shops selling FREITAG bags, there have been only two FREITAG shops until now, one in Davos and one in Hamburg (The Mirrored Truckstop Shop).

What is missing is a flagship store in their home city, where everything started. In the normal course of events, you would commission a hot architectural practice to compete for the most spectactular retail outlet, as in prada, gucci et al. Architecturally all these buildings are all very exciting, but their content is totally interchangeable. They want to make shopping an experience and the shop to consolidate their brand. Only rarely is the synthesis of content and form imperative.

Markus und Daniel, together with spillmann.echsle architects didn’t opt for a guerilla store or a hip factory building, but went in a different direction: what is the most fitting look and material for a FREITAG store? The SHOP ZURICH (realised by Raumbau) is built completely from recycled shipping containers. They were gutted, reinforced and stacked 26 m high, a 17-container FREITAG skyscraper with 4 sales floors and 1600 bags on offer.

It is low enough not to violate the city’s restrictions on high-rise buildings, but high enough to do truckspotting from the roof (lovingly fitted with a telescope). One solid piece of a shop!

So now Zurich has a new architectural landmark: the Bonsai Skyscraper. At least until 2010 that is, when the buildings on the Maag estate (including the FREITAG factory) will be demolished to make way for what will be the tallest skyscraper in Switzerland.

“The bag is an urban tool, a saddlebag for the city cowboy (and the small-town deputy) that links what is real with what is virtual and carries it all over the world”. (Max Kung in F-Book, Lars Muller Publisher, Baden. 2001)

Address: Geroldstrasse 17, CH-8005 Zurich
Tel: +41 43 366 95 20

Text: Friedrich-Wilhelm Graf from unfolded
Photos: Isabel Truninger (Portrait Photo), FREITAG lab. and unfolded
Coordinator: JykK Japan Inc. Tel: +81-468-56-6667

[Help wanted] Inviting volunteer staff / pro bono for contribution and translation. Please e-mail to us.