Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst - Basel - Switzerland
The city of Basel decided in 2007 to make a competition in order to build the new school of arts and design.
The school was previously split in six different buildings, so the administration’s aim was to gather all the ateliers, labs, working stations, offices and classrooms in just one building.
Müller Sigrist Architekten won the contest, suggesting to convert a huge existing building from an original industrial use to a new urban situation. The building was built between 1922 and 1924 in order to be a warehouse. It is 125 meters long and 23.5 meters wide and unlike most of the contemporary industrial building in the area, which were built in timber, the load-bearing structure is made out of concrete. Moreover, the whole structure is based on Robert Maillart’s pillars, which are extremely flexible and can host many different functions and spaces, as needed in this case. All the 120 original pillars were maintained and in case of double-height spaces implemented with additions in concrete.The original tiles were cleaned and where necessary supplemented with stocks. Larger dormers and skylights increase highly the light’s amount; moreover thanks to them the reconstruction is also visible outwardly. Circulation has been implemented through the addition of four new staircases and a corridor along the facades. The new staircases have also a structural function: the concrete cores bear the horizontal forces. Original wood-windows have been replaced with new ones, in order to save heating energy, as well as the external plaster.
Original loading ramps have been repaired and furnished with new handrailings. Mechanic ventilation and internal curtains have been provided against overheating. To sum up, the building has been simply repaired, repainted and maintained, where it was possible; where bigger interventions where needed, the architects worked like surgeons, with punctual interventions. The project is highly sustainable, because on one side it exploits an existing flexible structure and its positive features, on the other side the building is deeply renovated in order to reduce radically energy consumption and to accomodate all the contemporary necessities.
[project selected by Giorgio Turri]