Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
The building has neither a cellar nor a roof and yet these two elements were initially our main concern. How should the building touch the ground in a place that was not just a building site but a marvelous, park-like garden? And how should it “stop”? Should we simply cut the building off at the top, like so many other postwar structures of modernism, or put a proper saddleback roof on it to match most of the other buildings in the neighbourhood?
We soon realized that what we really wanted was a roof landscape and not a conventionally monolithic roof because the idea of a “roofscape” would greatly enhance the potential of developing living patterns that move from inside to outside. The final shape of the segmented roofscape offers many more views and unexpected vistas, which would not have been possible with a traditional roof. But at the same time, this unconventional roofscape is quite distinct from the glass body of the building below and resonates with the proportions of the other buildings in the neighbourhood.
As for the cellar, the building needed parking spaces and the crucial question was whether the client would be able to live with the unexpected idea of a parking garage that wasn’t relegated to an underground area. Instead cars would be parked outside under an open roof rather than being locked up in a smelly cellar. The garden, molded and lowered into the ground to make room for the cars, makes the building looks as if it were hovering above the ground. Instead of having a barren underground space interrupt the landscape, an outdoor space emerged in the molded garden that underscores the spaciousness of the entry and the beauty of the garden landscape.
This spaciousness, the airy roominess and openness also became the leitmotiv for the two floors of offices, which are so lofty and so delightful to work in that staff members from all over the world would like nothing better than to live there.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2005