Herzog & de Meuron
Project
1989
Realization
1991-1994

On the edge of railway tracks, next to the new railway engine depot and the old walls of the Wolf-Gottesacker (cemetery) from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there is a tall, copper volume containing the signal box. On six floors, there is mainly electronic equipment for the control of points and signals to the depot and the related tracks, as well as a few workstations and their ancillary spaces.

The building’s concrete shell is insulated on the exterior and wrapped with approximately 20 cm-wide copper strips that are twisted at certain places in order to admit daylight.

As a result of the copper coiling, the building acts as a Faraday cage protecting the electronic equipment inside from unexpected external effects. At the same time, it is also able to express vividly these physical qualities. Contrary to conventional industrial buildings, its scale is open and indeterminate (floor divisions are not recognizable), so that the configuration is able to take up a specific relation with the adjacent field of railway tracks.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1995

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049_CP_9401_724b_MS
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049_CP_9401_721_MS

Process

Plans and models of the project, for which no sketches were preserved, highlight the almost graphic linear structure of the copper strips – tight at one point, twisted at another – forming the outer shell of the signal box. The serial construction of the railroad tracks is translated into a filigreed facade, symbolically expressing the electronic functions of the building. First attempts show that the copper strips were bent open to allow recognition of the floors at the windows. The models underline the spool-like character of the copper wrapping with the additional vertical wrappings. However, due to technical reasons this could not be realized.

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049_DR_9401_500
049_DR_9401_501
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049_MO_9401_700_SF
049_MO_9401_700_SF
049_MO_9401_702_SF
049_MO_9401_702_SF
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The copper strips are bent open increasingly with the help of spacers; the computerized operation requires only a small support staff.

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049_MO_9401_002_MOa

The interchanging wrapping gives the outside of the signal box a vivid, sculptural appearance. Its material develops a highly sensual quality.

049_CP_9401_727_MS
049_CP_9401_727_MS
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049_CP_9401_709_MS

The copper strips are bent open increasingly with the help of spacers; the computerized operation requires only a small support staff.

049_CP_9401_718_MS
049_CP_9401_718_MS

The signal box Auf dem Wolf, depending on the perspective, appears to visitors as a monolithic, seemingly floorless, filigree building entering into contact with the railroad tracks as well as dominating them and putting them into relation with the surrounding high buildings of the adjoining quarters. At night, the interior light shows the floor structure through the windows. The copper surface, depending on time of day, light, and weather conditions, takes up varying colors and tactile qualities. The light copper shade is meanwhile covered by a dark patina, juxtaposing the noble box with the unpretentious tracks.

If rain has washed away the dust, it shimmers in a velvety dark green. Under a light blue winter sky or nightly illumination the signal box radiates a neonlike strangeness, removing it mysteriously from any touch. Making this protean quality experiencable in time and space is one of the major qualities of Herzog & de Meuron’s designs.

049_CP_9401_721_MS
049_CP_9401_721_MS
049_CP_9401_702_MS
049_CP_9401_702_MS
049_CP_9401_710_MS
049_CP_9401_710_MS
049_CP_9401_700_MS
049_CP_9401_700_MS
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049_CP_9401_704_MS

Drawings

049_DR_9401_504
049_DR_9401_504

Team

Facts

Client
Schweizerische Bundesbahnen – Hochbau Kreis II, Switzerland
Planning
General Planning: Proplaning AG, Basel, Switzerland
Architect Planning & Construction: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Construction Management : Proplaning AG, Basel, Switzerland
Structural Engineering: Proplaning AG, Basel, Switzerland
HVAC Engineering: Sulzer Energieconsulting AG, Liestal, Switzerland
Electrical Engineering: Selmoni AG, Basel, Switzerland
Plumbing Engineering: Balduin Weisser AG, Basel, Switzerland
Specialist / Consulting
Facade Consulting: Tecton AG, Pratteln, Switzerland
Climate Control Design: Sulzer Energieconsulting AG, Liestal, Switzerland
Building Data
Gross floor area (GFA): 20'376 sqft, 1'893 sqm
Footprint: 3'078 sqft, 286 sqm

Bibliography

Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2007.” 2nd rev. ed. Madrid, Arquitectura Viva, 2007.

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron 1989-1991. Das Gesamtwerk. Band 2. The Complete Works. Volume 2.” Edited by: Gerhard Mack. 2nd adv. and rev. ed. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2005. Vol. No. 2.

Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): “El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 1981-2000. Between the Face and the Landscape. The Cunning of Cosmetics. Entre el Rostro y el Paisaje. La Astucia de la Cosmética.” 2nd adv. and rev. ed. Vol. No. 60+84, Madrid, El Croquis, 2005.

Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): “Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2002.” Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 02.2002.

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.

Jacques Herzog: “Recent Work of Herzog & de Meuron.” In: Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Ed.). “Columbia Documents of Architecture and Theory.” Vol. No. 4, New York, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, 1995. pp. 5-25.

Herzog & de Meuron, Nikolaus Kuhnert, Angelika Schnell: “Minimalismus und Ornament. Herzog & de Meuron im Gespräch mit Nikolaus Kuhnert und Angelika Schnell.” In: Marc Fester, Sabine Kraft, Nikolaus Kuhnert (Eds.) et al. “Archplus. Herzog & de Meuron: Minimalismus und Ornament.” Vol. No. 129/130, Aachen, ARCH+ Verlag GmbH, 12.1995. pp. 18-24.

Herzog & de Meuron: “Besondere Orte. Stellwerk Auf dem Wolf, Basel, 1994.” In: Verlegergemeinschaft Werk, Bauen + Wohnen (Ed.). “Werk, Bauen + Wohnen.” Vol. No. 5, Zurich, Verlag Bauen + Wohnen GmbH, 05.1994. pp. 26-33.

Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Ernst Hubeli: “Das Selbe und das Besondere. Ein Gespräch mit Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron, neuere Arbeiten.” In: Verlegergemeinschaft Werk, Bauen + Wohnen (Ed.). “Werk, Bauen + Wohnen. Formzwang, Freiheit der Form.” Vol. No. 10, Zurich, Bauen + Wohnen GmbH, 10.1993. pp. 14-31.

Location