Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron know only too well how challenging it can be conceiving high-rise designs in low-rise cities. They faced a protracted battle to get their pyramidal tower in Paris accepted by locals and the planning authority in the French capital. However, last week they successfully realized a project of similar proportions in their home city of Basel, completing the first building in a major new complex for pharmaceutical giant Roche.
Building 1 towers over Basel’s low-rise skyline.
Succinctly titled ‘Building 1,’ the 580-foot-high (178 meters) skyscraper opened on September 18 and will be the workplace for around 2,000 employees. The tower is the tallest in Switzerland, its height and contemporary aesthetic contrasting with the traditional pitched roofs and spires of the surrounding city. Inside, open spaces are interspersed with double-height ‘communication zones’ all the way up the tower, which incorporate sculptural spiral staircases and open out to external terraces.
Spiral stair within the communication zone, leading to an outdoor terrace.
According to the architects, the prismatic tower represents a new precedent for strategic development across the region. “Building 1 exemplifies our position in the current discourse surrounding the problems of uncontrolled development, both in Basel and throughout Switzerland,” comments Pierre de Meuron. “In areas where there is already dense urban settlement, the aim should be continued, targeted densification.”
Office space and the cafeteria
Building 1 marks the the first part of a major master plan by the architects in collaboration with their commercial clients. Pierre de Meuron said of the partnership: “The completion of Building 1 marks a milestone in a working partnership between Roche and Herzog and de Meuron, which has endured some twenty years and more.” The rest of the development will soon be underway, including Building 2, set to surpass the preceding tower to become the country’s tallest.
Rendering of the completed development