Basel Dreispitzareal, Urban Study
Basel, Switzerland
Project 2001–2002, 2003

The Dreispitz, an urban site covering some fifty hectares, is privately owned by a single proprietor. Originally used as a goods warehouse and later as a customs depot, its development, governed by unconventional rules, has led to a fascinating hodgepodge of architectures and uses whose ugliness borders on the beautiful. The streets bear names that conjure the wider world: Helsinki Strasse, Florenz Strasse, Oslo Strasse. There are railroad tracks and a strictly gridded street plan, similar to an American city. The area has now developed into an experimental melting pot for a variety of urban activities—a place of rampant growth not just in terms of its unplanned, rambling vegetation but in social terms as well.

Because a location of this kind is so untypical and extremely rare in Switzerland, we were more than happy to take on the commissioned urban study. One of our aims was to propose planning phases that would not be governed by the dictates of a rigid master plan, but rather by open-ended processes that would reinforce the existing urban diversity while also allowing for a substantial increase in density. Instead of a tabula rasa, we proposed juxtaposing various architectural typologies so that small, almost shabby structures would stand next to large-scale objects, mirroring the strategy that is already in place in the area around the Schaulager at the southern end of the Dreispitz.

The proposed metropolitan analogies—Manhattan, Soho and Queens—are intentionally provocative images as leitmotifs that provide ample latitude for specific individual projects. If the scope it offers is intelligently exploited in the years to come, the Dreispitz is set to become one of Switzerland's most distinctive neighborhoods in terms of both to typology and substance. A first, significant step in this direction has already been taken: the relocation of the Academy of Art and Design with some 1000 students and lecturers is scheduled for the summer of 2014. The university will be housed in existing industrial buildings as well as new, purpose-built premises.

The Dreispitz commission was of particular interest to us because we have spent years studying the development of the trinational, metropolitan city of Basel and have repeatedly advanced ideas and proposals based on our research. This is the largest test area to which we have now been able to apply our findings. One of our pet recommendations has been to develop new, border-crossing neighborhoods in which people from France, Germany and Switzerland can live together unimpeded by the boundaries and intermediate zones which are such enduring remnants of the region’s World War II defense strategies. The Dreispitz is the first urban neighborhood in which a borderline between two cantons has become invisible; the borderline between Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land. A trifling achievement, one might argue, but in view of Switzerland's notoriously parochial mindset, its disappearance is a milestone in the country's history.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2008


Herzog & de Meuron Team:
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron
Project Team: Jeanne Françoise Fischer, Christian Müller, Gerrit Sell, Noélie Sénéclauze

Christoph Merian Stiftung, Basel, Switzerland ; Finanzdepartement Basel-Stadt, Basel, Switzerland; Baudepartement Basel-Stadt, Basel, Switzerland


Herzog & de Meuron. Basel Dreispitzareal, Bâle - Basel, CH 2001 - 2002, 2003.
In: Frédéric Migayrou (Ed.). L'Enjeu Capitale(es). Les Métropoles de la grande Échelle. Large-Scale Metropolises. Symp. Proceedings L'Enjeu Capitale(es), les Métropoles de la grande Échelle. Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris. 1 - 2 October 2009. Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2009. (= Rendez-Vous du Grand Paris). pp. 32-33.

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. Das Gesamtwerk. Band 4.
Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4.

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. The Complete Works. Volume 4.
Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4.

Felix Leuppi: Aufbruch im Dreispitz.
In: Verlag Hochparterre, Amt für Raumplanung BL, Wüest & Partner, Zürich (Eds.). Supplement: Hochparterre. Vol. No. 8, Zurich, Verlag Hochparterre, 08.2007. pp. 26-31.

Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron. Vision Dreispitz. Eine städtebauliche Studie.
Edited by: Baudepartement Basel-Stadt, Bau- und Umweltschutzdirektion Basel-Landschaft, Christoph Merian Stiftung. 2nd adv. and rev. ed. Basel, Christoph Merian, 2003.