This office building marks the northern most point of a wedge-shaped street block that includes the city’s covered market and marks the border between Basel’s historic city center and the main railway station. With its daring reinforced concrete cupola, the covered market is a prominent element of this late 1920s construction with outstanding urban planning and architectural qualities. On its eastern perimeter the development borders the Heuwaage viaduct. The viaduct was built in the 1960s as part of the ring road and followed the course of Basel’s historic city walls, which had been demolished in the nineteenth century. The city’s entry point from the valley is located beneath the viaduct and across from the wedge-shaped plot. One purpose of this new development was to unite the city market’s street block with the city center, reassert a greater coherence across the large arterial thoroughfares, and integrate the different, heterogeneous urban scales.
When a political initiative called for the preservation of the Opéra, a neo-Gothic corner house located on the site, the development was put to a cantonal vote in the summer of 1985. The majority of voters approved the new development.
The office building rests on a plinth that fits the irregular plot closely. With its short wing facing west, the building’s 150m long façade runs up the entire height of the hill, leading from the plot’s lowest point on its northern corner to its southern edge at the hilltop. With the building’s courtyard façade stepped back, the house tapers off towards the top. Five floors with offices rise over the plinth’s large, contiguous surface. A system of pillars and ceilings defines the structure of the reinforced cement construction. The vertical quality of the windowless, cylindrical corner wing counterbalances the distinct horizontal quality of the volume overall. The plinth is finished with red colored cement. The outer shell on the plinth is constructed using large-scale cast stones that have been dyed green with the addition of porphyry rock. The stones measure 1.4m in length and their module corresponds to the building’s structure and spatial organization. The stepped-back walls facing south to the courtyard have ochre plaster facing and border the adjacent buildings on small-scale plots. The windows with horizontal orientation and the terrace doors opening onto the courtyard are painted green, while the wood frames of the windows looking out onto the street have a sheet zinc lining. Lead-lined letters emblazon the large window of the two-story hall on the fifth floor to spell ‘FIDES,’ declaring that the eponymous trust company owns the building. Aside from this lettering, the building displays the plainness characteristic of the other buildings on the block.
Client: Fides Treuhandgesellschaft Konsortium Steinentorberg, Basel
Location: Steinentorberg/ Innere, Margarethenstrasse, Basel, Switzerland
Gross Floor Area (GFA): 19.412 m²
Use / Function: shops, offices
Structural Engineer: Léon Goldberg
Mechanical Engineer: Waldhauser Haustechnik, Bogenschütz & Bösch, Selmoni