Thanks to the new research and development center, F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG will be able to concentrate all of the pRED (pharmaceutical Research and Early Development) functions at the Basel headquarters. This will offer some 1,900 employees not only an attractive, state-of-the-art research and working environment but also a location with which both the company and its employees can identify.
The research center consists of four independent buildings that share a common cellar with service areas and parking space for 900 vehicles. The building complex will replace a single, large office building in the western part of the premises to the north, adjacent to the production headquarters Bau 95 on Grenzacherstrasse. The two high-rise buildings will house laboratories and dedicated write-up spaces, while the two lower buildings will contain offices and a conference center with large meeting rooms and an auditorium for 200 people.
A decisive factor in developing the company premises is their integration into the urban residential area of northwest Basel. The development on the edge of the premises responds to the scale of the surrounding neighborhood. The density of construction is concentrated in the middle of the site where the tallest buildings of the pRED Center are located. These rise in steps of 114 m, 71 m, and 26 m up to a height of 18 m facing west, thus establishing an urban link to the residential buildings in the neighborhood. The pRED Center project is governed by the principles defined in a development plan that was approved in May 2016. Herzog & de Meuron were commissioned to do the planning in 2013.
The plans specifically further the development of the clear urban typology of the Roche site. Its structure and architecture are indebted to the architect Otto Rudolf Salvisberg, who devised a master plan in the 1930s. The four buildings of the pRED Center reflect the stringency of his pioneering principles of urban planning and the existing buildings on the site.
The four buildings of the pRED Center are divided into two pairs in order to integrate them into the overall fabric and the context of the two tallest buildings Bau 1 and Bau 2.
Bau 04 and Bau 05 join the low buildings on the site and together form a pair with a horizontal facade. Like Bau 67, which stands opposite on the east side, Bau 04 closes off the site to the west, forming the transition to the adjoining buildings in the neighborhood.
The two high-rises Bau 06 and Bau 07 are also a pair, whose vertical impression is emphasized by pilaster strips that form a shell around both buildings with their vertical core structure adjoining the facade. This reinforces their presence is a pair that belongs together and distinguishes them from the horizontality that characterizes the high-rise buildings Bau 1 and Bau 2 in the center of the site.
Since the buildings face public streets, they have the unique potential of permitting passersby to look into laboratories and see pharmaceutical research in action. The premises will thus become more permeable and open to the city.
Bau 04 forms the lateral border of the pRED Center, generating the opportunity to create attractive green space in the densely built northern portion of the site. The outdoor area, planted with the trees, relates to the pRED Center with its ground floor cafeteria and provides a perfectly natural meeting place for employees of the company.
Surroundings with which employees can identify, enhancing their work environment and fostering creativity, are a crucial aspect of a successful, innovative research center. A variety of ground level green spaces between the buildings, the café on the 13th floor with a view of the city, the collaboration and recreation space on the 23rd floor: all of these areas contribute to a stimulating atmosphere where employees can work together, meet, or take a short rest.
The importance of maximizing the potential for interaction and ensuring short paths of communication, both crucial aspects of a research complex, is reflected in the wide spiral staircase that connects the three floors in which the laboratories are housed. And in the office building, all of the floors are connected via a central staircase. Paths between floors and departments inside the buildings naturally facilitate uncomplicated communication among employees, specifically spiral staircases and vertical views, of the kind already implemented in some of Salvisberg’s Roche buildings. Special meeting places adjoin the stairs, such as the tea kitchen and larger conference rooms.
The structure of the building and the layout of the work plan are designed to ensure a modern research and work environment and an infrastructure that can continuously be adapted to the latest needs of research. The structural elements have been positioned to provide maximum floor space for open space labs und offices.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2020