Above a metalwork shop in Basel’s Matthäusquartier, eight new residential units rise. Made from prefabricated wood elements, the new four-story building sits atop the existing ground-level structure. On the street side, the addition matches the eave height of the neighboring property and reinterprets the adjacent roof edge as a sawtooth roof. Its shape and orientation also make it the ideal location for the building’s solar panels. On the courtyard side, the building is stepped back as required by zoning, creating a spacious balcony for each apartment.
The residential units are entered at street level, where the mix of new and existing elements feels perfectly natural. The atmosphere in this entrance area is defined by traces of the past, and by the reinforced-concrete and masonry work intrinsic to the building’s structure. From ground level, a staircase made from prefabricated wood elements leads to the warmer atmosphere of the apartments above.
Large metal panels protect the wood structure from the elements and add urban flair. The construction firm that runs the metal shop on the ground floor was extensively involved in the project – they fabricated the street-facing facade, among many other components – and their materials are visible everywhere. The simplicity of the fabrication and construction processes remains visible in the finished building, and the interplay between the different materials contributes significantly to the atmosphere of the space.
The entire addition and all of its fixtures implement the idea of “urban mining” to the greatest extent possible. This idea is based on the argument that all the resources used to build a building should be reusable, recyclable, or compostable whenever feasible. The building was designed and built with these restrictions in mind. As a result, almost all of its components are attached with screws for easy removal, rather than being glued down. In keeping with this way of thinking, the wood floors are installed with screws, the chrome-steel bathrooms are jointless, and the heating ductwork and electrical conduits are exposed.