Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 385 5757
Oberkassel, a district in Düsseldorf on the left bank of the Rhine, was once home to industry and small trades. Toward the end of the 20th century, the area began to change, with obsolete production sites being converted into artists’ studios, exhibition spaces and small businesses, or razed to make room for residential housing.
One of the first projects of this kind was the conversion of an old turbine hall into an artist’s studio and living space, planned by Herzog & de Meuron and completed in 2001. Over time, the building became too small for the needs of the studio, inspiring the idea of setting up a separate studio nearby, apart from the living quarters.
As luck would have it, there was a property available right across the street. It was one of those now rare courtyard developments, once typical of the area, that had originally contained workshops and garages. After thorough evaluation, the existing structure was deemed inadequate for the desired purpose and it was decided that a new build would be required.
The brick wall surrounding the premises was preserved or rather realigned in smaller sections, and the workshops within were torn down. This provided a site large enough to accommodate the studio, which was roughly positioned as a rectangle and then stretched like a rubber band at the corners to the full extent of the legally permitted boundaries, creating the characteristic shape of a kite or a deltoid.
The studio complex itself is grouped around a central space that extends the full height of the building. It is not so much a conventional studio as a space in which the artist can conduct “test runs” of his work. This allows him to install his images full-scale once they have been processed at the computer, to gauge their spatial effect. All aspects of production are located in the adjoining two-storey wings.
The concrete waterproof base of the larchwood building is strong enough to withstand the annual rise in groundwater levels when the Rhine is in spate and thus allows for art storage.
By extending the corners of the building as close to the outer wall as possible, the surroundings are divided into almost scenically autonomous areas. Specific functions or atmospheres have been assigned to each of them and designed accordingly. Wherever possible, existing features were integrated (such as the quirky garden pond at the back of the property) or reused (such as old bond stones recycled for paving).
Thanks to favourable geological conditions, climate control in the building is extremely efficient, with geothermal probes and heat pumps in winter and building component activation of the ceilings in summer.
The 1200sqm roof area feeds two subterranean cisterns used to water the garden.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2012
Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva Monografías. Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2013.” Vol. No. 157/158, Madrid, Arquitectura Viva SL, 09.2012.