Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 385 5757
With the addition of the New Hall, current activities on the Messeplatz will continue, but they will take place in a space with different proportions. What was once an elongated rectangle that more or less ran into Clarastrasse without noticeable demarcation is now almost a square with clearer urban definition.
A new “lane” between the New Hall and existing multi-storey car park offers better access to Messeplatz for pedestrians. Connecting east to the adjacent residential area around Riehenstrasse and Peter Rot-Strasse, this “lane” is a continuation of Isteinerstrasse and creates a new east-west link which integrates the Messeplatz into the quarter. Service and supply to the New Hall will be mainly through an underground route, thus reducing truck traffic on Riehenstrasse.
The Messeplatz is a pedestrian and cyclist precinct. Together with the adjacent Rosentalanlage, the Messeplatz will be the main outdoor space for the many residents of the Messe district. The green belt along the Messeplatz-Wettsteinplatz link will be enhanced by more trees on Riehenstrasse to visually connect the exhibition centre to the Rosentalanlage.
Ideally, exhibition halls should be as spacious as possible, rectangular in layout, with wide spans and ceiling heights of around 10 m, in order to provide the flexibility and versatility required for exhibition purposes. In recent years, the demand for such generous spaces has further increased.
Taking Baselworld as a leading example of a modern international exhibition, where the halls are animated by the individual exhibitors’ stands, the goods on display and the crowds of visitors, the question of an exhibition hall architecture does not seem to be a primary demand. Architecture is only perceptible in public areas and stairways and only there can an interface with the wider public landscape of the city emerge. The best illustration of this is the round courtyard in Hall 2. Regrettably, this courtyard is only accessible during exhibitions as it is undoubtedly one of the most attractive public areas in Basel and, especially during Art Basel in June, one of the most successful urban meeting points in the whole of Switzerland. The City Lounge aims to turn the inward-looking architecture of the round courtyard towards the outside and to make it accessible all year round.
Viewed from the outside, exhibition halls are actually nothing more than a stack of big boxes. They require very few windows and architectural distinctions are deemed as impractical restrictions on interior flexibility. The architectural results are generally composed of vast, monotonous facades of brick as in Hall 2 or glass for Hall 1. To avoid this repetitive sameness, we took a different approach for the New Hall.
The New Hall features three exhibition levels. The entrance level, the lowest, is at grade with the street and outdoor square, permitting a natural and casual coming-and-going. Ground floor entrances seamlessly link the City Lounge to the existing Hall 1, former Hall 3, the new event space for 2’500 spectators, and a number of shops, bars and restaurants in the foyers. The dynamic sweep of the street level facade reacts to the flows of people and corresponds to the space required at the tram stop and entrances to the exhibition centre and Event Hall. Here, large expanses of glass create the spatial transparency both necessary and appropriate in order to achieve the openness envisioned for the exhibition hall complex and the enlivening of public urban life. This vitalisation and acceptance will be crucial to the long-term success of the “Messezentrum in the city” concept.
Above the ground will be two exhibition floors. To avoid the “big box” effect, the two upper volumes are offset from each other as separate entities, which indeed they are! The New Hall therefore consists of three individual elements, one on top of the other, each projecting over the street in varying degrees, and allowing them to respond to different urban conditions. From each point of view – whether from the Riehenring, Messeplatz or Riehenstrasse – the New Hall offers a different perception every time and thus avoids the monotony of uniform facade lines.
This constant architectural variation is reinforced, paradoxically, by applying a homogeneous material (aluminum) over all exterior surfaces. The facade of articulated twisting bands strategically modulates and reduces the scale of the large exhibition volumes to its surroundings. This is not simply a decorative element but a practical means to regulate the fall of natural light on adjacent properties and to frame specific views from individual spaces, primarily the social areas above the City Lounge, towards the public life of the city.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2013
Since the first Mustermesse in 1917, the historic exhibition halls have reflected the economic progress of Messe Basel. New buildings—sizable structures that changed the whole district—were constructed at ten-year intervals, with the Messeturm and the Theo Hotz hall as the most recent.
Historic sequence of trade fair buildings from the 1920s to the present day.
Exhibition Square, with its distinct profile, takes its place in a sequence of striking squares traversing Basel from the Badischer Bahnhof to Barfüsserplatz.
The very spacious structure required by Messe Basel is of a different order in terms of its size, but the articulated design of the building also ties it into the area.
The architects respond to the surrounding area by creating a three-layer structure, with the two upper levels offset from each other. In an early proposal, which was not realized, facilities for sports and other activities reinforce its public character.
The new trade fair hall frames the square. A round opening in the building creates a connection to the sky and a new meeting point.
Like the facade, the opening is clad with aluminum panels— each 2.5 meters long—which open up in front of window sections, providing views out into the city.
The panels of the facade cladding are curved so that they can scatter the light away from neighboring properties.
The undulating metal bands evoke associations with water and maintain a reference to a human scale.
Each of the 15,000 aluminum panels is individually shaped and, following the parameterization of the facade, positioned using an algorithm.
Production of a 1:1 model of a section of the facade.
Construction had to be carried out without disrupting the operation of fairs in the existing halls.
The new exhibition hall gives the center of Kleinbasel an impetus for dynamic development with new tall buildings.
The new halls have both a high load-bearing capacity and are extremely flexible in their use. The entrance area welcomes visitors, as befits an urban center.
Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2004. The Complete Works. Volume 5. Birkhäuser, 2020.
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