This afternoon I went on a tour of Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, with Jörg Schwarzburg who worked with Vittorio Lampugnani on laying out its masterplan. Lampugnani was recruited in 2001. He kept the main street as the central axis, basing it on the original Celtic settlement and adding a flanking Milanese arcade. First building on the left is by Roger Diener with coloured glass panels on the façade (the chemical industry was founded on Basel’s historical expertise in dyes), on the right a building by SANAA. In the middle of the site there’s a building by Frank Gehry which disrupts the rigid geometry of the site. David Chipperfield has done an austerely classical building in which he mixes the offices and the laboratories. At the end, there’s a building by Tadeo Ando. It’s an architect’s dream of systematic order, utopian like a design by Aldo Rossi. No photography.
Tag Archives: Switzerland
St. Antonius Church
I luckily read in the guidebook about St. Antonius (thank you Wallpaper guide), a remarkable piece of proto-brutalism, all in raw concrete, designed by Karl Moser and Gustav Doppler in 1927 and apparently known as the ‘Soul Silo’. I went on a pilgrimage by tram:-
Basel is a good city for architecture, taking its civic responsibilities seriously, now as always in the past. Here are some things I saw.
The entrance to the Natural History Museum:-
Basel Art Fair (2)
Spending a few days at the Basel Art Fair, not having ever been before, has made me realise its central significance in the calendar of contemporary art. It’s not so much the Fair itself – after all it’s possible to see a large amount of contemporary art in downtown New York and now in central London, often in much better and less hectic circumstances – but the sense of collective endeavour, the renewal of essentially Calvinist vows over many years. So many of the people I have met have been here every year for the last two decades at least (the first fair opened in June 1970). It’s a ritual , but an important one, because contemporary art and contemporary architecture are more central to the culture of Basel than elsewhere.
Museum der Kulturen
Owing to the temporary closure of the Kunstmuseum while it is being renovated, key works have been redistributed to other museums, including some of the greatest works by Holbein which have been redisplayed in a single tall room in the nearly unvisited Museum der Kulturen, including his Dead Christ dated (very conspicuously) 1521:-
Basel is pretty low key for a major art, financial and pharmaceutical city, low rise and much of it is suburban like a large industrial park with smoking chimneys in the distance and the headquarters of Roche right near the centre of town. I got a better sense of it on day two, having entirely missed the historic centre which is extensive and well preserved. It’s a burgher town, grown rich on the banks of the Rhine with old houses and quiet streets:-
We set off to see the Schaulager, one of Basel’s multiple museums, designed, like so much else in Basel, by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron for the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation and opened in 2003. It’s not the most beautiful building, a big brown biscuit on three sides, like a Weetabix, with an entrance façade with two large video screens:-
I was really pleased to have a chance to see the Beyeler Foundation, one of the great smaller museums of the world, on the outskirts of Basel looking out over fields. The building was designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 1997: rather classical with red sandstone columns at either end of a temple-like structure; filled with bleached oak floors and the best quality of natural daylight diffused from the ceiling. There is also a quality of it being inside out, with views out into the countryside and the garden, like the de Menil Museum in Houston:-
Basel Art Fair (1)
I’ve never been to the Basel Art Fair before. It’s mildly overwhelming having the whole of the contemporary art world packed into a large Swiss warehouse, gallery after gallery stretching out into the infinite distance. What have I liked ? Pablo Bronstein in Franco Noero, a gallery from Turin. Quite a few Sean Scullys. Some wonderful Christos. New work by Grayson Perry shown by Paragon Press. I particularly enjoyed the showing of large works in the adjacent space under the title Unlimited including work by Ai Weiwei called Stacked (2012):-
And a poignant work by Kader Attia called Arab Spring (2014):-