Herzog & de Meuron

Meret-Oppenheim Tower . Basel

Herzog & de Meuron . SRF

SBB is one of Switzerland’s largest landowners. 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, thus contributing to the densification of urban centers around the main stations of Basel, Zurich, Lucerne and other cities. Such a densification and urban renewal project is the Meret-Oppenheim Tower, located in the Gundeldinger Quarter of Basel. The tower project is part of the Südpark ensemble situated to the south of the main train station and tracks.

In 2002, Herzog & de Meuron won the competition for Südpark organized by SBB. Both the Baufeld B and Baufeld D plots are closely connected with the "Passerelle", an overhead walkway spanning the railroad tracks, and together will form a new spatial context for future access to the station and to the city center of Basel. In addition, both plots help to define the northern edge of the Gundeldinger Quarter. This densely populated area, known as the “Gundeli” amongst Baslers, has become a dynamic area of diversity and active street life.

Stacking volumes
The form of the tower is the result of stacking volumes of different sizes. The process of stacking underwent various phases where we tested how the resulting proportions, dimensions and functions would fit with the urbanistic and programmatic expectations and requirements. The concept of stacking allows us to break down the scale of this unusually tall building at the edge of the large track field on one side, and facing the narrowness and the scale of the historic neighbourhood of “Gundeli” on the other side.
The stacking of volumes generates a kind of topography of various terraces, platforms, gaps and other outdoor – indoor spaces. Its numerous setbacks and overhangs provide exclusive exterior spaces for a large number of apartments, amongst other programs.

Programming volumes
The Meret-Oppenheim Tower is a mixed-use building with apartment, offices, retail, cafés and restaurants. Most programs are bound to specific volumes within the whole stack. The cafés and restaurants will animate the street life along the Güterstrasse and the Meret Oppenheim Square. Above the ground floor with its restaurants, there will be 5 floors of office space. The residential portion of the building rises from the 6th to the 23rd floor. The apartments may be entered independently from the service functions or via the shared concierge service. On the 6th, 7th, and 15th floors, there are large outdoor areas that will function as terraces for the respective apartments, or alternatively as communal outdoor gathering spaces. The different levels provide unique views over the city and the surrounding landscape.

The shape of the tower is characterized by its strong volumetric structure. Through the principle of stacking volumes, overhangs, terraces, and voids between the individual sub-volumes are created. These elements give the building its specific appearance.
A folding and sliding shutter system forms the outer shape and appearance 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 resulting depth of the facade is a central feature of the architectural design and gives the shell its quality and distinctive space.
The appearance of the building is changing not only from different perspectives of the city, but also throughout the day and night. The building changes between a distinctive and precise assemblage of volumes and a more eroded and fuzzy appearance. 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/residents, while at the same time generating a dialogue with those viewing the building from the surrounding neighborhood.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2014

Meret-Oppenheim Tower
Basel, Switzerland
Competition 2002, project 2013 – planned completion 2018

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