Arquitectura Viva
Saturday, September 19, 2020

Herzog & de Meuron, Meret Oppenheim Tower in Basel (Switzerland)

SBB is one of the largest landowners in Switzerland. This national railway company owns land in prime locations of the urban centers across the country. This previously underutilized potential of real estate has been increasingly developed in the last years, densifying the urban centers around the main stations. Such an urban renewal project is the Meret Oppenheim Tower, located in the Gundeldinger Quarter of Basel. The tower is part of the Südpark ensemble – also promoted by SBB and completed by Herzog & de Meuron in 2012 –, and the two projects together help to define the northern edge of the quarter. In 2002, Herzog & de Meuron won the competition for Südpark organized by SBB to develop two plots situated to the south of the main train station. Both plots are closely connected with the “Passerelle,” an overhead walkway spanning the railroad tracks.

The form of the tower is the result of stacking volumes of different sizes. The concept of stacking allows to break its scale, generating a kind of topography of various terraces, platforms, gaps and other outdoor-indoor spaces. The process of stacking underwent various phases, testing how the resulting proportions and dimensions would fit with the urbanistic and programmatic requirements: the volume is stepped reaching its maximum height facing the railroad tracks and the minimum height along Güterstrasse. Most programs are bound to specific volumes within the whole stack: the café and the restaurant will animate the street life, above the ground floor there will be five floors of office space, and the residential portion of the building rises from the 6th to the 24th floor. Large outdoor areas will function as terraces for the respective apartments, or alternatively as communal outdoor gathering spaces for the offices.

A folding and sliding shutter system forms the outer image of the building. Placed just behind these movable sun protection elements is a balcony layer that creates depth on all sides of the building. This transitional space introduces a filter between the individual residences and the city, allowing views from interior to exterior, and a shifting transparency from exterior to interior. The appearance of the building is changing not only from different perspectives of the city, but also throughout the day and night. This happens by its users and through external influences such as sunlight or wind. This constant change gives form to the individuality of its users, while generating a dialogue with those viewing the building from the surrounding neighborhood.
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