Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
This commercial and apartment building was built on a parcel located within the city’s medieval perimeter. Thus, the long (23 meters) narrow (6.30 meters) measurements typical of medieval parcelling had to be accommodated. The architecture was strongly influenced by the parcel’s form which was utilised right to the back of the lot and has always had a highly specific floor plan and section in this densely-built context.
The apartments are each grouped around a central courtyard that opens on one side to the neighbouring parcel to the south. This side opening was not only intended to let light and sun reach the apartments but also to allow for the enjoyment of the branches of a large tree in the neighbour’s yard. Like a periscope, the façade around the courtyard is recessed floor-by-floor to clearly separate the individual apartments.
The stairway is separated from the elevator shaft to gain area for the central living space. The apartments are entered directly from the elevator. The stairs at the end of the parcel are an open construction thus fulfilling the additional function of a small loggia.
On the ground floor, a two-story hallway leads from the street along the old parcel wall and allows access to the Swiss Fire Fighting Museum located in the back courtyard. The street façade is made completely of glass and is protected by a cast-iron curtain construction that can be folded back piece-by-piece at will. Wavy light slits lend the curtain construction a flowing textile-like feeling. While the construction hides the living space behind it, its heavy cast-iron material serves as a counterweight protecting against the noisy street side. In both form and material the façade components are related to sewer grates and to the protective grilles placed around trees. Thus, emphasizing they have their origins in the world of the street.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1995
The former development of the parcel.
Site plan of the deep, medieval parcel at the edge of the old city center.
The high, narrow hallway which greets one upon entering the house makes the typical old city parcel with its deep and narrow ground plan physically noticeable. The curved medieval firewall was only painted white. The daylight spilling into the first floor through
the glass in the shutter and the artificial lighting provide the hallway with an almost surreal pull towards the red door at its end, leading to a planned fire department museum on the adjoining property.
The cast iron folding shutters with their curved form remind one of the movement of curtains. At the same time, the material provides them with a heaviness we know from southern buildings, which are protected against the heat and the publicity of the streets by shutters. The interaction of opening up and protecting the private space from the communal space is therefore
the central theme of the facade and of the building in a hose-shaped layout.
The cut-in light yard provides the horizontally-stretched apartments with a rhythm and allows the border distances of the windows to be kept; it also brings green and different perspectives into the apartments.
According to the privacy needs of the interior dwellers, the windows facing the light-yard can be closed with wooden roller blinds adding a Japanese touch.
- Pensionskasse des Basler Staatspersonals, Basel, Switzerland
- Construction Management: Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd., Basel, Switzerland
- Roof Sctructure Planning: Helmut Pauli, Ingenieurbüro Schaub, Basel, Switzerland
- Cast Iron Blindings: Philippe Petignat, Gerbervogt Holz und Mettalbau AG, Basel, Switzerland
- Building Data
- Gross floor area (GFA): 7'965 sqft, 740 sqm
- Footprint: 1'937 sqft, 180 sqm
- Gross volume (GV): 110'782 cbft, 3'137 cbm
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