Basel, Switzerland

Breaking the bounds of of Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani's master plan, Fabrikstrasse 15 by Frank Gehry stands in a surprising juxtaposition to the serene array of rectilinear buildings that dominate the Novartis campus. It is located at the geographic heart of the campus, in full view of the company's renovated 1939 Forum 1 International Headquarters building, and across the street from a refined stretch of porticoed offices and labs by Adolf Krischanitz, Rafael Moneo, Lampugnani, and Yoshio Taniguchi. The highly visible, independent site gave the architect freedom to exploit his expansive, free-spirited style.

Relieved from many of the constraints binding the other architects, Gehry and his team created a voluminous 209,896-square-foot building that manifests the Novartis commitment to an open and environmentally responsible workplace in its crystalline transparency and intricate sustainable strategies.

Anchored to a load-bearing reinforced-concrete skeleton that sits on a rigid 56-foot-deep basement box, the building's structural steel shell supports an active triple-glazed envelope that is tied to its natural ventilation and lighting systems through a centralized building facility-management system. Like a finely tuned machine, the building performs unobtrusively to provide comfortable surroundings for its occupants. Sliding glass doors on the ground floor and operable windows discharge excess solar yields and facilitate the flow of outside air, aided by a mechanical fresh-air system around the perimeters of the upper levels.

Home to the human resources (HR) department, as well as to a top-floor campus reading room, a 600-seat multiuse auditorium and IT learning center (both below grade), and a ground-floor restaurant and caf' that spill out onto the campus green, Fabrikstrasse 15 is a hub of activity. The warm, wood-lined interiors feature whimsical LED-backed-veneer media-columns and modular Gehry-designed furnishings and workstations.

In accordance with Novartis chairman Daniel Vasella's versatile “multi-space” office concept, the architects arranged the HR floors on the five upper levels with flexible, open-plan work spaces and glass-enclosed “private rooms,” bisecting them with a central atrium and serpentine stainless steel stair to bring light down through the core of the volume. A series of skylights strategically inserted into the floor and grounds around the building carry daylight to the caf', the lower-level learning center, and the auditorium stage.

According to Gehry Partners project architect Kamran Ardalan, daylight is harvested and managed in several ways: The low-E glazing is articulated with ceramic frits on the facade to reduce direct solar gain; an orchestrated series of low-E-coated, saillike interior shades operate on sensors to minimize glare and additional heat; and sound-absorbing lamellas under the roof diffuse sunlight and further compensate for the thermal load by serving as cooling radiators filled with slightly chilled water. In addition, photovoltaic cells integrated into the glass roof panels not only generate enough power for the building's electric lighting, they supply an additional layer of solar shading.

“The amount of daylight inside the building is consistently monitored,” says Ardalan. Electric lighting is used only when there isn't enough daylight, he adds — and to illuminate the building at night.

Looking frosted and icy-white on a bright afternoon, the building assumes a brilliant clarity as the sun sets, revealing its inner workings like a child's “visible engine” kit. This effect stems from a perceptive, energy-efficient electric lighting scheme by the New York'based L'Observatoire that balances program and architecture.

It was a challenge, says principal Herv' Descottes: “It's such a transparent building that you could lose its sculptural aspects.” To achieve a soft, lanternlike glow, Descottes and his team layered the structure with light from within.

Initially, they created a layer by washing the mullions of the facade with metal-halide uplights installed inside the perimeter of the first level. Then they added a second layer of ambient and task lighting on the office floors, using compact fluorescent lamps. Here the lighting team kept the general light levels lower than usual to emphasize the glow of the fixtures at each desk, a tactic used to establish an intimate ambience for employees.

Next they installed linear fluorescent fixtures to wash the wood walls on all the levels, and inserted cool T5s above awninglike glass ceiling panels in the auditorium that create a seamless transition with the sunlight penetrating the skylight.

Last, they lined the atrium with adjustable metal-halide fixtures from the ground floor up to the roof, directing them up and down, and reflecting light off the white lamellas. This move, perhaps the most important, brightens the center of the building and underscores its voluptuous form.

During a recent visit on a warm and sunny summer morning, the offices were bursting with light — without a hint of glare — and wonderfully temperate minus the chill of air conditioning. A holistic tour de force, Fabrikstrasse 15 is illuminating in its transparency and ability to harness the aura and power of light — both generated and from the sun. Such a building defines the spirit of Novartis as an enlightened workplace.

Owner: Novartis Pharma AG

Completion Date: June 2009

Gross square footage: 19´500 m2

Total construction cost: Confidential

Gehry Partners, LLP
12541 Beatrice Street
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Tel: 310-482-3000
Fax 310-482-3006


Gehry Partners, LLP
12541 Beatrice Street
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Tel: 310-482-3000
Fax 310-482-3006

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Frank Gehry – Partner In Charge
Edwin Chan – Design Partner
Terry Bell – Project Partner
Kamran Ardalan & Herwig Baumgartner – Project Manager / Architects

Principal Project Team:
Sven Newmann
Patricia Eva Schneider
Ron Tannenbaum
Narineh Mirzaeian
Manoucher Eslami
Vartan Chalikian

Schematic Design Project Team:
Joshua Morey
Yoram Lepair
Timothy Paulson
Frank Mahan
Earle Briggs
David Dorn
Andrew Fastman
Frank Weeks
Manuel Blanco-lonqueria
Lukas Raeber
Jeffery Garrett
Randolph D’amico

Architect of record
Local architects, general management, realization planning and site management:
Planergemeinschaft Arcoplan / Nissen& Wentzlaff, Basel
Project management: Daniel Wentzlaff, Thomas Oetiker, Timothy O.Nissen

Project Team:
René Keuter
Hendrik Johannsen
Karl Reiter
Paul Luternauer
Michael Sauer
Silvia Barben
Christiane Bouhraoua
Raymond Gaëtan
Soran Jester
Stephan Schweizer
Stefan Herrmann
Michael Geiger
Thomas Ligibel
Bettina Fritsche
Senad Catovic
Heiko Müller
Hans Münchhalfen
Wulf Oschwald
Ueli Raeber
Karl Sowa
Silke Techen
Daniel Hofer
Daniel Reinhardt
Ulli Blümmert
Andreas Schön
Isabel Frey
Lionel Combebias
Christian Hafenmayer
Martin Schlegel
Moritz Rusch

Interior designer
 Gehry Partners, LLP

Building services planning: ADZ- Aicher De Martin Zweng, Lucerne, Switzerland: Gregor De Martin, Walter Wüthrich, Bruno Wigger, and Ralf Haebig
Building automation: ADZ- Aicher De Martin Zweng, Basel, Switzerland: Urs Winkler
Building physics: Gruner AG Basel, Switzerland: Martin Beyerler
Structural engineer: Schlaich Bergermann und Partner, Stuttgart, Germany: Jörg Schlaich, Hans Schober, Michael Werwigk, Kai Kürschner

Acoustical: McKay Conant Brook, David Conant/ Dr. Markus Ringger, Gruner AG Basel, Switzerland
Audio-Video planning: Virtually Audio GmbH, Suhr, Switzerland: Daniel Zurwerra, Thomas Rüetschi
Catering planning: Planbar, Zurich, Switzerland: Walter Widmer
Graphics, signage: 2x4 Inc. New York, U.S.A: Michael Rock, Lee Moreau, Yoonjai Choi, Albert Lee
Electrical planning: Scherler AG, Basel, Switzerland: Thomas Roth
Energy concept: Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH, Munich, Germany: Matthias Schuler, Wolfgang Kessling, Christian Oberdorf
Fire prevention concept: Mario Fontana, Zürich, Switzerland: Alfred Spinelli, A+F Brandschutz, Pratteln, Switzerland
Façade planning: Emmer Pfenninger Partner AG, Münchenstein, Switzerland: Hans Emmer, Kurt Pfenninger, Martin Friedli, Steffi Neubert, Jeanette Leu
Landscape: Vogt Landschaftsarchitekten, Zurich, Switzerland: Günter Vogt, Ralf Günter Voss, Uta Gehrhardt
Lighting: L´Observatoire International, New York, Hervé Descottes, Socorro Sperati, Beatrice Witzgall

CAD system, project management, or other software used
 2d Drawings in Auto CAD and 3d Modeling in Digital Project/Catia



Structural system
Steel-Structure Facade: Müller Offenburg GmbH: Offenburg, Germany in collaboration with Josef Gartner GmbH: Gundelfingen, Germany. Christian Gäßler, Wolfgang Mayr, Ladislaus Balint, Sebastian Utz and Torsten Nörr.
Concrete Structure: Implenia AG, Switzerland

Exterior cladding

Metal/glass curtain wall: Josef Gartner GmbH: Gundelfingen, Germany.


Glass:Curtain Wall: Glass by BGT Bischoff Glastechnik: Bretten, Germany, Curtian wall engineering and installed by Josef Gartner GmbH: Gundelfingen, Germany.
Auditorium Glass Ceiling – Hunsrücker, Kirchberg, Switzerland
Exterior Balustrades: Andreas Oswald GmbH, Oberschleissheim, Germany
Ground Floor Interior Glazing: Senn AG, Oftringen, Switzerland
Interior Glass Balustrades: glass manufactured by Blaser, Basel, Switzerland, installed by Imbau AG, Pratteln, Switzerland
Conference Room Glazing: Andreas Oswald GmbH, Oberschleissheim, Germany
Meeting / Interview Rooms: Röthlisberger Innenausbau, Gümlingen, Switzerland
Interior Windows (wood framing):  Jos. Berchtold AG: Zürich, Switzerland
Design Stairs Mainbuilding: Arnold AG, Friedrichsdorf, Germany

Exterior Auditorium Skylight: Andreas Oswald GmbH, Oberschleissheim, Germany
Interior Skylights: MTV Metallbau - Technik Villmergen AG: Villmergen, Switzerland


Entrances: Josef Gartner GmbH: Gundelfingen, Germany
Metal doors: Senn AG, Oftringen, Switzerland
Wood doors: Jos. Berchtold AG, Zürich, Switzerland & Dreier AG, Kleinlützel, Switzerland (doors back of house)
Sliding doors: Josef Gartner GmbH: Gundelfingen, Germany
Fire-control doors, security grilles: Senn AG, Oftringen, Switzerland / Jos. Berchtold AG, Zürich, Switzerland / Dreier AG Kleinlützel, Switzerland (doors back of house)
Revolving Door: Blasi GmbH, Mahlberg, Germany


Locksets: Frank O. Gehry Design, Valli e Valli, Italy
Closer &, Panic Hardware: Manufacturer: Dorma GmbH
Exit devices: Manufacturer: Dorma GmbH
Pulls: Frank O. Gehry Design, Valli e Valli, Italy / Glutz AG, Switzerland

Interior finishes

Acoustical ceilings: Two prodcuts used:
BASWAphon Acoustical Finish - BASWA Switzerland & STOSilentPanel - STO Switzerland

Suspension grid:
Auditorium Operable/Acoustic Partitions:  Industrial Acoustics Company (IAC): New York, U.S.A; Craig D’ Anna
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Jos. Berchtold AG: Zürich, Switzerland
Paints and stains: manufacturer: Dold AG: Wallisellen, Switzerland
Wall coverings: Vertical Grain Douglas fir interior Wall claddings/Windows- Jos. Berchtold AG, Switzerland / Meeting-interview room- Röthlisberger Innenausbau: Gümlingen, Switzerland
Bathroom Stainless Steel Partitions: BTS – Partition System: Munich, Germany
Bathroom Tiles: Villeroy & Boch
Auditorium Leather Paneling: Leather provided by Poltrona Frau, Italy, Fabricated and Installed by Pfyl & CO Schreinerei AG, Schwyz, Switzerland
Perforated Wood Paneling: (For Auditorium) Pfyl & CO Schreinerei AG, Schwyz, Switzerland
Perforated Wood Paneling: (For Main Building) Jos. Berchtold AG: Zürich, Switzerland

Plastic laminate:
Wood Surfaces: Vertical Grain Douglas fir veneered wood paneling – Central Wood Supplier: Sauter Paul AG, Münchenstein, Switzerland
Special surfacing: Cooling Ceilings/Walls: MWH Barcol-Air AG, Stäfa, Switzerland
Floor and wall tile (cite where used): Wood Floor – Senn Parkett, Dussnang, Switzerland
Resilient flooring: Dispoxid 472, Caparol Farben AG, Nänikon, Switzerland
Carpet: manufacturer: Shaw, U.S.A.
Raised flooring: Type FLOOR and more N 30 x L/A, AGB Bautechnik AG, Switzerland


Office furniture: Gehry Partners LLP, with Vitra International
Reception furniture: Jos. Berchtold AG, Zürich, Switzerland
Fixed seating: Jos. Berchtold AG, Zürich Switzerland / Röthlisberger Innenausbau, Gümlingen Switzerland
Workstation Task Chairs: Meda Pro by Vitra International
Conference/Meeting/Interview room Chairs: Eames Aluminum Group by Vitra
Workstation Tables: Gehry Partners LLP, with Vitra International
Upholstery: leather covered auditorium fixed seatings: Poltrona Frau, Italy: Fulvio Giustiniani
Custom Furniture: Conference rooms tables, meeting & interview rooms tables, reception desks, shelving, banquets, etc. – Designed by Gehry Partners, manufactured by various contractors.

Manufacturer: Erco, Neuco, Regent, Schmitz, Reggianni, Philips, Regiolux, Zumtobel

Pendant Lighting: Restaurant – Mama Cloud designed by Frank O. Gehry; Manufactured by Belux.
Custom Lighting: Conference Rooms – Designed by Gehry Partners, LLP: Tschudin AG, Basel, Switzerland
Task lighting: Tolome by Artemide
Dimming System or other lighting controls: various manufacturers


Elevators/Escalators: Schindler AG, Switzerland
Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.):
(Auditorium) Gilgen Logistics AG, Oberwangen Switzerland

Energy management or building automation system: Neuberger Gebäudeautomation AG, Rothenburg, Germany
Photovoltaic system: Schüco International KG, Bielefeld, Germany

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:

Façade Components:

  1. Highly selective triple glazing (low U-Values) with double fritting.
  2. Internally movable shading made of low-e –coated textile fabric.
  3. Façade openings in the upper and lower area of the façade for back ventilation of the façade (air circulation between the façade and shading).
  4. Internal Cooled/Acoustic lamellas under the roof of the central atrium - MWH Barcol-Air AG, Switzerland.

Air-conditioning Technology:

  1. Acoustic/Cooled ceilings in office areas.
  2. Floor Heating/Cooling
  3. Heating/Cooling panels along floor slabs in the façade areas.
  4. Decentralized Heating/Cooling convectors (under the floors).
  5. Source ventilation with fully air-conditioned fresh air.
  6. Air outlet of the re-circulating air for convection cooling of the façade areas.

Project awaiting Minergie Certification.
Minergie is a sustainability brand for new and refurbished buildings. It is mutually supported by the Swiss Confederation, the Swiss Cantons along with Trade and Industry and is registered in Switzerland and around the world and defended firmly against unlicensed use.

Additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:
Shading System Contractor – Clauss Markisen GmbH: Bissingen, Germany: Klaus Westenberger, Klauss Vogg
Shading Fabric – Ferrari (SOLTIS 86) Stamoid AG, Eglisau, Schweiz
Interior Design Stairs – Arnold AG, Friedrichsdorf, Germany
Cooling Lamellas – Barcol-Air AG, Stäfa, Switzerland
Auditorium Glass Ceiling – Hunsrücker, Kirchberg Switzerland
Auditorium Projection Screens – Stewart Filmscreen Corporation, Torrance, California
Cafeteria Buffets – Buob Kühlmöbel AG, Rorschach, Switzerland
LED Column – LED elements by Tweaklab AG, Basel, Switzerland; Installed by Jos. Berchtold AG: Zürich, Switzerland

Cafeteria LED signage - Tschudin AG, Basel, Switzerland