The masterplan of the Novartis Campus in Basel calls for a uniform building height of 23.5 m. Our office building Asklepios 8 is taller because it is situated at the outermost corner of the campus, where the open expanse of the river Rhine invites a different scale. Other taller buildings may flank the Rhine in future, anchoring the campus in the cityscape of Basel. The orthogonal geometry and volume of the Rhine front relates directly to the streets and squares of the campus behind it.
A high building, not a high-rise
Asklepios 8 consists of two cubes of almost the same height, placed on top of each other. One is six-story high and 23.5 m tall, corresponding to the height of the neighbouring buildings as defined by the masterplan. The cube on top has seven stories, to compensate the perspectival foreshortening when looking at the building from below or a distance. Between the two cubes, a high open space provides a spacious lounge for a wide spectrum of activities, events, working situations, seminars, etc. By means of cantilever balconies, the two cores further support the spatiality and multifunctionality of this tall room. The distinctive volumetric structure of Asklepios 8 makes it a high building rather than a high-rise that typically repeats identical layers from top to bottom. Despite its height, the new addition to the campus thus relates to the proportions of the neighbouring buildings, which follow the masterplan, and is integrated into the campus project as a whole.
The exterior: a façade?
Asklepios 8 does not have a conventional façade. All of the functions of a façade – light and views for users, protection against sun and rain, stability and structure – are equally and actively involved in shaping the exterior of the building. Conventionally, protection against rain and sun and even the structure are assigned a subordinate architectural role. In Asklepios 8, we have integrated all of these functions into a linear and three-dimensional system, whose vertical alignment follows gravity, such as the structure and rainwater. The system is complemented by horizontally cantilevered ceilings that generate an orthogonal fabric and tone down the materiality of the glass.
Innovative and communicative collaboration
The office space, available on eleven stories, is extremely attractive due to its exceptional lighting, views and communicative layout. The two freestanding, diagonally placed cores ensure maximum flexibility for users. This expansive in-between zone breaks up the scale of the building and creates a central area with a variety of flexible spaces for innovative and communicative collaboration.
Two volumes oriented towards the city and towards the Rhine form niches and galleries with a three-story space in the centre for special events.
Public use towards the Rhine Promenade
On the side of the building that faces the Rhine, Asklepios 8 is supported by two horizontal volumes that establish a connection on the upper campus level between the two parks located to the south and to the east. On the level of the Rhine Promenade, the two horizontal volumes house a riverside restaurant and café that are open to the public.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2015