Herzog & de Meuron
Competition
1979
Project
1982, 1983, 1985, 1987

A central theme in all the versions for the redesign of the Marktplatz, the central historical square in Basel with its dominant town hall, was the revelation of the buried Birsig River beneath the market square. The final design development foresaw a cochlea-like duct, conducting the river’s sound through a leaf-like grille in the paved surface dating back to the nineteenth century. The architectural means have been reduced to a minimum, an exercise that proved the viability of a concept’s realization while allowing for maximum engagement in the existing conditions.

There were suggestions for night lighting some of the square’s buildings (1982) and the closure of two streets (1979), though to date neither has been realized.

Herzog & de Meuron, 1995

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Process

The medieval valley city with its rich spatial structure existed until the 19th century. Today, however, the Birsig River can no longer be seen; streets and squares have a monotonous appearance due to urban expansion. The project proposal brings the course
of the river back into visibility through the addition of several fountains.

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The Basel market square with its red town hall is cut up with a whole network of tram tracks, car lanes and market booths to such an extent that its spatial effect has been lost.

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Herzog & de Meuron proposed a special lighting concept: important buildings around the market square are lit at night, the fountain and an information booth are utilized as large lamps. The customary street lamps, however, are not part of the concept.

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A large fountain complex at the edge of the market square is closed off towards the back by an information wall from which the water pours into a flat basin. The fountain basin is located above the Birsig canal. Through a cascade, the water forms a connection with the subterranean river.

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In 1982, a first redesign of the competition design reduced the operations on the square, but kept the concept of having the flow of the river resurface through the design of the square. Aside from the fountain, a small indentation at the curve of the Birsig tunnel
serves this purpose, with a descent leading to restrooms and a show window revealing the canal. The car lanes are integrated into a continuous cobblestone surface of the Market Square. The colored photo assembly provides an impression of the redesigned square.

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During the continuing redesign in 1985, Herzog & de Meuron did away with the fountain according to the demands of the jury. The cobblestone surface with its three 19th century rosettes becomes the center of attention. Herzog & de Meuron suggested a lancetshaped indentation placed into the middle rosette and covered with a grid. A double-walled resonance volume leads from it down to the Birsig canal and, like an ear, makes the gushing of the river audible.

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During the continuing redesign in 1985, Herzog & de Meuron did away with the fountain according to the demands of the jury. The cobblestone surface with its three 19th century rosettes becomes the center of attention. Herzog & de Meuron suggested a lancetshaped indentation placed into the middle rosette and covered with a grid. A double-walled resonance volume leads from it down to the Birsig canal and, like an ear, makes the gushing of the river audible.

Team

Project Team
Cyril Kazis (Graphics)

Facts

Client
Hochbauamt Basel-Stadt

Bibliography

Herzog & de Meuron. Natural History.” Edited by: Philip Ursprung. Exh. Cat. Herzog & de Meuron. Archaeology of the Mind. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. 23 October 2002 – 6 April 2003. 2nd ed. Baden, Lars Müller, 2005.

Wilfried Wang: “Herzog & de Meuron.” 3rd adv. and rev. ed. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 1998. (= Studiopaperback).

erhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron 1978-1988. Das Gesamtwerk. Band 1. The Complete Works. Volume 1.” Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 1997. Vol. No. 1.

Dorothy Huber: “The Hidden and the Apparent: Comments on the Work of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.” In: K. Michael Hays (Ed.). “Assemblage. A critical Journal of Architecture and Design Culture.” Vol. No. 9, Cambridge MA / London, Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT Press, 06.1989. pp. 114-117.

Jacques Herzog, Theodora Vischer: “Entretien. Jacques Herzog et Theodora Vischer.” In: Architekturmuseum Basel (Ed.). “Herzog & de Meuron. Architektur Denkform.” Exh. Cat. “Herzog & de Meuron. Architektur Denkform.” Architekturmuseum Basel. 1 October – 20 November 1988. Basel, Wiese SA, 1989. pp. 46-57.

Jacques Herzog, Theodora Vischer: “Gespräch. Jacques Herzog und Theodora Vischer.” In: Architekturmuseum Basel (Ed.). “Herzog & de Meuron. Architektur Denkform.” Exh. Cat. “Herzog & de Meuron. Architektur Denkform. Architekturmuseum Basel.” 1 October – 20 November 1988. Basel, Wiese AG, 1988. pp. 40-50.

Jacques Herzog: “Der Filmemacher.” In: “Aktuelles Bauen. Das schweizerische Bau-, Architektur- und Planungsmagazin. Väter und Söhne. Tessiner Architektur.” Vol. No. 7, Solothurn, Aktuelles Bauen, 07.1984. pp. 46-47.

Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron: “Marktplatz.” In: Hochbauamt Basel-Stadt (Ed.). “Projekte für Basel. Architektur-Wettbewerbe 1979 – 1983.” Basel, Baudepartement Basel. Hochbauamt, 1983. pp. 29-34.