Basel, Switzerland


Tucked tight against Switzerland's border with both France and Germany, Basel is a small city that has made room for big business. Its pharmaceutical giants operate from gated compounds, but another of the city's economic engines, the century-old trade-fair site (Messe or Convention Center), is woven into the fabric of a mixed-use urban neighborhood. After many mutations and extensions throughout the 20th century, the Convention Center now comprises an eclectic group of buildings Herzog & de Meuronund Exhibition Square, with a long tail stretching down the city's busy Riehenring. The latest addition, a jagged take on the typical stack of boxes, by Basel-based Herzog & de Meuron, bridges the western end of the square and extends a long row of exhibition halls.

The new building was designed to meet the particular needs of the flagship watch and jewelry show, Baselworld: exhibitors all want to be on the same floor, with room for three-story booths. This required a radical reworking of the existing complex. The architects demolished two outmoded halls dating from the 1930s and 1970s. In their place they constructed a new three-story building that expands a large, glazed 1990s hall, breaking through on its second level to create one continuous floor. It is nearly 1,300 feet long.

The new wing is topped by a generous 26-foot-high, 720-by-295-foot exhibition space on the third floor. Rather than block the busy thoroughfare it crosses, the design team lifted the structure over the street'to allow for vehicular and pedestrian passage below'resting it on a pair of glazed podiums. They pierced through the center of the suspended exhibition halls to form a giant oculus, which floods the resulting underpass with sunlight by day. This incision hovers above a covered public space, dubbed the City Lounge. Flanked by the addition's transparent entrance foyers, this inviting plaza links the square to Clarastrasse, which runs west to the city center.

Though the large void reduces the real estate and flexibility of the exhibition floors above, it was a crucial concession to the community. According to the firm's partner in charge, Stefan Marbach, the project had to be approved by local referendum, so the architects needed to 'somehow balance the functional concerns of the Convention Center, as a private investor, with the public interest.' Conscious that a big box would detract from established public spaces, the architects made sensitive use of both form and program to enhance them. By truncating Exhibition Square, formerly open to the west, they created a defined container that invites occupancy, and by setting the new building apart from an adjacent parking structure, they devised a new path into the square, refining rather than eradicating the city's grain. Additionally, newly installed shops and restaurants rimming the lobbies are turning the lackluster area into a destination.

Remaining elements of the urbanscape that were left untouched reinforce the sense that the City Lounge is a public space. A familiar cobweb of overhead tram wires passes under the building, where there is a convenient tram stop directly beneath the oculus. Here, too, the expansive sweep of glazing adds a layer of permeability between the private interior and the public exterior zones. Concave balconies peel back from the foyers' curvilinear glass walls, drawing the eye into the building and increasing the apparent size of the outdoor room.

Nothing, however, could compromise the ultimate functionality of the orthogonal exhibition halls. So options to ameliorate the building's bulk were restricted to the perimeters of the upper levels. To do this the architects stacked the top two floors, offsetting them in plan and twisting them to vary the building's silhouette, as well as to respect the 'right to light' of the neighboring buildings. They wrapped the seven resulting facade planes in a reflective mesh made of aluminum lamellas shaped to form gill-like openings. Though there are 15,000 individual rigid panels, the cladding reads as a single flexible element, a textile stretched taut over corners and slumping into gentle folds on the long elevations. The ribbonlike lamellas were cut and bent according to a parametric script that translated two-dimensional elevation designs into a three-dimensional model replete with all fabrication information, allowing fast revisions during design development. With just 22 months allowed for construction, there was no margin for error, so a section of the facade was mocked up at full scale to test both the subcontractors' capabilities and the designers' data.

The architects' ability to wring powerful effects from ordinary materials is evident in the resulting exhibition halls. Painted a deep charcoal gray and set behind rows of fluorescent tubes, ceilings textured with exposed structural and service grids work as a neutral backdrop for the exhibition stands while retaining a strong tectonic character. The fusion of light, shadow, and layered materials produces a perceptual ambiguity characteristic of Herzog & de Meuron's work. With the development of the Basel Convention Center, this skill has been successfully deployed at an urban scale to stitch the city into the trade-fair ground.


Owner: MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd.

Herzog & de Meuron
Rheinschanze 6
4056 Basel, Switzerland

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Partners; Stefan Marbach (Partner in Charge), Wolfgang Hardt

Project Team: Tobias Winkelmann (Associate, Project Director); Michael Schmidt, Stefan Hörner (Project Manager), Roger Huwyler (Project Architect), Roland Schreiber (Project Architect)

Project Team: Philip Albrecht, Israel Alvarez Matamoros, Michael Bär, Axel Beck, Marcelo Bernardi, Benito Blanco Avellano, Alexander Bürgi, Amparo Casaní Arazo, Estelle Chan,; Francisco de Freitas, Dorothee Dietz, Francis Fawcett, Oliver Franke, Eik Frenzel, Johann Gruber, Sabine Harmuth, Oke Hauser,  Wilhelm Heusser, Yuko Himeno, Ursula Hürzeler, Debora Hummel, Thorsten Kemper, Oxana Krause, Sophia Lau, Christian Laviola, Corinne Lopez, Xiaojing Lu, Ulrik Mathiasson, Katja Mezger, Marcello Nasso, Benjamin Olschner, David Palussiere, Dirk Peters, Louis Putot, Susanna Rahm, Holger Rasch, Sebastian Reinhardt, Nina Andrea Renner, Kathrin Riemenschnitter, Nathalie Rinne, Georg Sebastian Schmid, Katja Schneider, Katharina Schwiete, Jochen Seelos, Jan Skuratowski, Johannes Staudt, Matthias Stücheli, Nicolas Venzin, Manuel Villanueva, Thomas von Girsewald, Miriam Waltz, Romy Weber, Léonie Wenz, Gerd Wetzel, Douwe Wieërs, Thomas Wyssen, Claudia Winkelmann, Camillo Zanardini, Christian Zerreis
Massimo Corradi, Volker Helm, Steffen Riegas (Digital Technology Group)

Structural Engineering

  • Ribi + Blum AG Ingenieure und Planer, Romanshorn, Switzerland
  • Gruner AG, Basel, Switzerland
  • WITO Engineering GmbH, St. Gallen, Switzerland
  • ARGE Gruner AG / Ernst Basler + Partner AG, Basel / Zürich, Switzerland  (General Planner Phase)

HVAC Engineering

  • Lippuner Energie- und Metallbautechnik AG, Graps, Switzerland
  • CM Engineering GmbH, Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • Plodeck Kurt ECS, Neftenbach, Switzerland
  • ARGE Scherler AG / Aicher de Martin Zweng AG / Herzog Kull Group AG, Basel, Switzerland  (General Planner Phase)

Plumbing Engineering & Coordination of MEP
Rechberger Huustechnik AG, Zürich, Switzerland

Electrical Engineering

  • Herzog Kull Group AG, Aarau/Zürich, Switzerland
  • ARGE Scherler AG; Aicher de Martin Zweng AG; Herzog Kull Group AG, Basel, Switzerland (General Planner Phase)

Mechanical Engineering
Lippuner Energie- und Metallbautechnik AG, Graps, Switzerland

Landscape: Vogt Landscape Architects, Zürich, Switzerland

Lighting:  Bartenbach LichtLabor, Aldrans, Austria

Acoustical: Gruner AG, Basel, Switzerland

Sustainability Consultant: Ingenieurbüro Stefan Graf, Basel, Switzerland

Building Physics: Zimmermann + Leuthe GmbH, Aetigkofen, Switzerland

Civil Engineering: Burger & Partner Ingenieure AG, Basel, Switzerland

Facade Engineering: feroplan engineering AG, Chur, Switzerland
Neuschwander + Morf AG, Basel, Switzerland

Geotechnical Consultant: Pfirter + Nyfeler Partner AG, Muttenz, Switzerland

Security Consultant: Gruner AG, Basel, Switzerland

Traffic Consultant: Rapp Infra AG, Basel, Switzerland

Fire Protection: Gruner AG, Basel, Switzerland

Door Coordinator: Brütsch Elektronik AG, Uhwiesen, Switzerland

Media Concept: iart interactive ag, Basel, Switzerland

Structural Survey: Gruner AG Ingenieure und Planer, Basel, Switzerland

Survey: Gruner AG Ingenieure und Planer, Basel, Switzerland

Technical Planner Gastronomy: axet gmbh, Embrach, Switzerland

Design & Build Contractor: HRS Real Estate AG; Frauenfeld, Switzerland

General Planner: ARGE GP, Herzog & de Meuron; Burckhardt + Partner AG, Basel, Switzerland

Photographer(s): Iwan Baan

CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCad / Rhinoceros


896,000 square feet

Total construction cost:


Completion date:

February 2013



Structural system

  • Cores and underground work: cast in place concrete
  • Main structure hall: steel frame and prefabricated concrete beams


Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:
ARGE MEZEBA, Basel/Wallbach, Switzerland

  • Obrist AG
  • Bauunternehmung AG
  • Anliker AG

ARGE, Süssen/Wendeler, Donzdorf/Süssen , Germany

  • Stahlbau Wendeler GmbH & Co. KG
  • Stahlbau Süssen GmbH

Precast Concrete Columns:
SACAC Schleuderbetonwerke AG, Lenzburg, Switzerland

  • solid-colored with Bayferrox 8 %

Exterior cladding upper levels:
ARGE, Rytz/Marx, Zunzgen/Muttenz, Switzerland

  • Rytz Industriebau AG
  • Marx Flachdach AG

Facade cladding: Aluminium 3mm; J57S (Novelis Deutschland GmbH); anodized E0/EV1 (BWB-Holding AG)

Facade main construction: MONTAWALL MK (MONTANA BAUSYSTEME AG)

Outdoor Ceiling:
Imbau AG, Pratteln, Switzerland

Cladding: Aluminium 4mm; J57S (Novelis Deutschland GmbH); anodized E0/EV1 (BWB-Holding AG)

Tecton Fladag AG, Pratteln, Switzerland

Glazing (Facade Ground Floor):
Aepli Metallbau AG, Gossau, Switzerland

Steel construction: powder-coated IGP-DURA xal 4601 (IGP Pulvertechnik AG)
Cover strip glass: anodized E4/EV1 grinding and brushing (BWB-Holding AG)
Glass: double glazing (Steindl Glas GmbH)
Glass print: translucent dot printing on position 1 (S1de ONE Ferro GmbH)

Metal doors:
Klausner AG Metallbau, Auw, Switzerland (Manufacture Hörmann Schweiz AG)

Wood doors:
Lehmann Arnegg AG, Arnegg, Switzerland

Sliding doors: GEZE Schweiz AG

Interior finishes
Ceiling foyers:
Phonex AG, Muttenz, Switzerland
Product: Custom-made ceiling, Aluminium 1,5mm, powder-coated TIGER anodized silver 069/90025 (Manufacture Pagolux Interieur GmbH)

Demountable partitions walls:
Rosconi AG, Villmergen , Switzerland

Millwork (handrail foyers): Lachenmeier AG, Basel, Switzerland

Paints and stains: Siegrist & Tschour AG, Olten, Switzerland

Product foyer walls: natural pigment paint, kt.COLOR 230.009 snow white (kt.COLOR AG)
Product hall walls: dispersion paint, Reinacrylat Caparol Amphibolin; NCS S8000N (CAPAROL Farben AG)

Wall coverings Event Hall:
Imbau AG, Pratteln, Switzerland
Product: acoustic cladding TOPAKUSTIK type 14/2M (n'H Akustik + Design AG)

Floor and wall tile:
Citton AG, Basel, Switzerland
Artificial stone: Agglosimplex Nero portoro sanded (SANTA MARGHERITA S.p.A. DE)

Flooring mastic asphalt ground floors:
Walo Bertschinger AG, Zurich, Switzerland
Mastic asphalt: sanded and sealed, Typ AS11 classico WB, ICH10

LED-Balustrade Foyer
LEUROCOM electronic displays GmBH, Winnenden, Germany
Custom-made 3 mm metal sheets with laser cut holes, holes filled with polycarbonate (Makrolon®), LED Stripe Technology (Mediastripe®)

Interior ambient lighting: Zumtobel Licht AG

Downlights: Zumtobel Licht AG

Exterior: Zumtobel Licht AG

Elevators/Escalators: Schindler Aufzüge AG, Pratteln, Switzerland