Basel and the Life Sciences: University and Health City
The Basel University Hospital, situated within the city walls dating from the 13th century, is embedded in the small-scale structure of the Old Town. In contrast to the perimeter city blocks that characterize the surroundings, the hospital campus consists of distinctive, single buildings constructed over many decades around an inner-city garden that has always been a public park. The decision to keep the hospital near the University and to increase its density has attracted other institutions in the fields of teaching, research and healing, such as the ETH Zürich.
The Biozentrum was inaugurated in 2018 and the tower of the hospital’s Klinikum 2 (K2) building will follow; both are large-scale buildings which add conspicuous, erratic notes to the skyline of Basel. These developments are not reversible: the University and Health City is emerging as a city within a city.
A burgeoning Health City of such stature calls for an urban vision that will integrate single and separate, function-oriented buildings into an overarching concept. A cluster of taller buildings is generally preferable to isolated high-rises. We therefore propose another tall building for Perimeter B to complement the ensemble flanking the hospital garden. Over the long-term, we see the potential of densifying the University and Health City by adding more tall structures and simultaneously extending the garden.
The contemporary city with its justified requirements of research, teaching and healing will become manifest behind the veduta of the historical city. An urban quality that has shaped the city of Basel since the 20th century will be accentuated: the natural side-by-side of a small, historic patchwork city and an industrial city of dyes, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and life sciences.
Functionality and Urban Planning: A Three-part Composition
The new building must meet the exacting needs of a complex brief. The outpatient tumor center, laboratories and outpatient nephrology are permanent functions but during construction on K2, it will also provide temporary quarters for other departments (phase 1). The permanent uses will be installed later (phase 2).
In collaboration with the hospital planner Teamplan, Rapp and Herzog & de Meuron have devised a three-part composition to achieve the flexibility required to meet these complex needs: an elongated base on a slope that accommodates three to four stories with two objects hovering above it, a 12-story cube and a one-story, kidney-shaped pavilion. This division of the large volume into several parts ensures a trouble-free side-by-side of permanent uses and temporary quarters.
The subdivision also makes it possible to establish a precise spatial and atmospheric rapport with the urban environment and the hospital garden. The three-story base responds to the height and scale of the landmarked neighborhood along Hebelstrasse. It is four stories high at the other end and flanks the hospital garden, thus establishing a relationship to K1 that is similar to the current nurses' residence built by Hans Schmidt. The axially positioned high-rise will transform the unattractive Schanzen-/Klingelbergstrasse junction of the ring road into a prominent urban Plaza of Research with access to the new building and the hospital garden. It is clearly juxtaposed with the new K2. As integral to the urban vision, the cube lends the growing University and Hospital City an identity and a center.
Permanent Uses in the Base: Tumor Center and Laboratories
On the Plaza of Research, a canopy marks the main entrance to the hospital lobby from Klingelbergstrasse. Placed under the cube hovering above, it divides the gently curved base into two halves and, as in K1, it links the street and the garden, but on a more intimate scale. It also provides direct access to all of the departments located in the base (and in the cube): the outpatient tumor center on the three lower floors and laboratories on the two floors above them. Inner courtyards provide orientation and daylight; waiting zones adjoin them. The corridors provide intermittent views of the city and the garden; small terraces allow staff and patients to enjoy the fresh air. The base is connected to K1 above and below ground along Schanzenstrasse. The existing, complex infrastructure underground must remain operative during and after construction, which is an additional functional and structural challenge.
Nephrology and the dialysis station will be housed in the pavilion on top of the base. The proximity to Holsteinerhof and a separate entrance on Hebelstrasse ensure an inviting atmosphere and privacy for patients returning for regular treatment.
Cube: Flexible Spaces for Two Phases of Use
Temporary quarters for K2 are located in the cube, a flexible building with an efficient floorplan. Conversion for phase 2 is restricted to this high-rise component and will make only a marginal impact on daily routine in the base. In phase 1, the cube will temporarily accommodate the outpatient units, such as Surgical Polyclinic, Dermatology, the Medical Polyclinic and Functional Diagnostics. These areas of high patient frequency are accessed directly from the main entrance. As the plans now stand, pathology, genetic medicine, research and teaching will be housed in the cube during phase 2. It is also conceivable that the Eye Clinic, which is now outside the Health Campus, will be relocated to the new building.
Form and Facade: Finely Structured, Curved Contours
The architecture is characterized by sweeping, convex and concave contours. Their origin is indebted to the shape of the plot; it follows the former city walls, which are now the ring road. This sweeping gesture resonates on a smaller scale in biomorphic shapes, such as the roof of the nephrology pavilion, the main lobby and smaller elements of the building like stairs, ramps and the brise-soleils of the facade.
Cantilevered concrete floors, setback glazing, brise-soleils of lightweight concrete, awnings and natural stone cladding lend the new complex depth as well as an open, breathing character and a mineral quality. A kinship with other buildings on the hospital campus is intentional, especially with K1 as a superb example of modernist hospital architecture; we have taken the building's detailing and material idiom a step further. The brise-soleils – "mineral parasols" for a highly transparent facade – direct daylight deep into the building. Conversely, they minimize the sunlight reflected back onto the city and reduce light pollution at night. The bright, finely structured elements of the facade are human in scale and treat sun and light in different ways.
Hospital Garden: Heart of the University Hospital
The new building emphasizes the qualities of the inner-city hospital and reinforces them as part of the overall vision. The hospital garden with its trees still constitutes the heart of the entire complex. The base that flanks it is relatively low, ensuring ample space, air and sun while the greened roof terrace on the base affords a view of the Baroque garden of Holsteinerhof and the hospital garden.
Herzog & de Meuron/Rapp, 2019