Office Building in Basle

An impressive walnut staircase that draws visitors upwards is certainly the outstanding feature of the interior design of this office building, which Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani has erected on the grounds of a pharmaceutical concern in Basle. The same architect was also responsible for the master plan for the redevelopment of the entire site, which is being converted into a “campus of knowledge”. Lampugnani’s carefully proportioned, punctuated facade in white Carrara marble forms an interesting contrast to the warm, subdued coloration of the interior. The elongated ground floor restaurant, for example, is dominated by blood-red wood panelling, while the six-metre-high entrance hall is clad entirely in European walnut. Together with the floor finish in dark-grey stone, the patterned veneer of the panels conjures an unusually sensuous spatial effect. This foyer leads to the foot of the long, central, linear staircase, a structure that visibly divides the building over its entire height. Here, too, fine craftsmanship is evident: a separate tree trunk was used for each floor to ensure a high degree of uniformity in the grain and coloration of the veneer. The staircase walls on each side are in the form of a column-and-beam system that permits views through the entire depth of the building. This open quality was made compatible with fire regulations by constructing the beams as smoke barriers between the access zone and the staircase. No two storeys are alike: the straight-line staircase, a kind of Jacob’s ladder, provides access to every floor at a different point via bridge-like landings. Situated here are alternately a lounge area with a tea kitchen, and a meeting room. Smaller discussion spaces are located for the most part at the corners of the building. Like inbuilt furnishing elements, wooden “working cabinets” for two or three people articulate every floor into screened-off office zones of different sizes that flow into each other. The building is ventilated largely by natural means via individually openable windows. Only the internal lounge areas are mechanically cooled and dehumidified. The virtually unused air from these spaces flows out into the offices.
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