F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG and Herzog & de Meuron first began working together in the 1990s. Since then, over the past three decades, an entire series of buildings has emerged, most recently Building 1, an office building rising to a height of 178m. It was the tallest in Switzerland upon its completion. The investments Roche has been making clearly demonstrate the firm‘s commitment to its headquarters in the city of Basel. Building 2, even taller than Building 1 at a height of 205 m, is a logical consequence of this commitment with its concentration of workplaces in the Wettstein neighborhood. The development plan devised by Herzog & de Meuron in 2014 provides the urban guidelines for the project and also underlies the development of the northern sector of the site. The zoning plan was approved in 2016, paving the way for Building 2 and the research and development center, pRED.
The current location of production and research at the Rheinknie, the bend in the Rhine, dates back to Swiss architect Otto Rudolf Salvisberg’s masterplan of the 1930s. He designed the checkerboard structure in which the footprint of Building 2 is embedded. The original buildings established an architectural idiom with which Roche still strongly identifies today. The two new towers can be read as a contemporary extension of this architecture which originated in the principles of classical modernism.
The design of Building 2 relates explicitly to Building 1; the two form an ensemble in the center of the site. The second tower is governed by the same volumetric concept: the building tapers to a point through regular setbacks on the north side; the three remaining sides are straight and vertical. The southern façade frames the street of Grenzacherstrasse, in combination with the equally straight and vertical northern façade of Building 1.
Building 2 has office space for 3100 employees with exceptional spatial properties for a high-rise. The office floors are divided into clusters of three, each with connecting spiral staircases, fostering communication among employees from different departments. In addition, thanks to the geometry of the building, an outside space in the form of a terrace or loggia is accessible to users of each cluster. The office spaces are supplemented by five floors reserved for special uses. These include meeting and conference rooms on the first and second floors which are easily accessible from outside, a café on the ground floor, a bistro on the 12th floor overlooking the northern sector, and the topfloor cafeteria. Looking out over the top of Building 1, visitors to the cafeteria enjoy a spectacular view of Basel and the surrounding countryside.
Grenzacherstrasse is a public axis that runs through the middle of the site. In the not-too-distant future, when construction on Building 2 and pRED has been completed, the street will become a vibrant public space with pedestrians, bicycles, cars, buses – and a great deal of greenery. It will become a Life Science Boulevard, connecting the northern and southern sectors. The red iron sculpture by Bernard Luginbühl in front of Building 67, the blue wall piece by Rémy Zaugg in Building 95, and the stacked boulders by Fischli/Weiss at the entrance to Building 1 are works of art that deliberately figure as protagonists in this public space.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2018