Ricola Marketing Office Building

Ricola Marketing Office Building in Basel, Switzerland by Herzog & de Meuron, 1998

The Ricola marketing office building at Laufen, Basel and accompanying text are by Herzog and DeMeuron.

The new building sits in the midst of a small-scale and rustic building development of no architectural quality worthy of the name. By way of compensation, the surrounding gardens with their hedges and trees provided a wonderful environment for a transparent architecture linking interior and exterior space.

We dispense with an imposing multi-storey volume and decide instead on a low-level polygonal complex which fits like a pavilion into the Ricola garden. We wanted an architecture whose external form and geometry did not reveal themselves at first sigh, but, thanks to folds in the facades, breaks up into individual components which each embrace or reflect a particular place in the garden, or manage to project it far into the building's interior.

The markedly projecting roof can be understood as symbolic of the strategy applied here, namely to fuse architecture and nature. The rafters are of a special synthetic material which bends differentially in varying temperatures and under varying weights of rain or snow. The plants which thread their way in and out combine with the rafters to form a natural/artificial hybrid structure, which gives the building a changing appearance in accordance with the changing seasons. The evergreen ivy provides for a year-round basic greenery between the rafters, while the foliage of other plants, such as Virginia creeper for example, is only visible in the summer months and then, in addition, helps to shade the glass facades from excessively strong sunlight.

In the interior the building is conceived as a single, cohesive, open space, providing a largely transparent office landscape on two storeys. The large staircase in the middle of the building is a linking element, a meeting place and auditorium. The building is totally glazed all round and equipped with a number of ceiling-high sliding doors. The actual spatial boundary is thus not static, and can be changed as required. The curtains installed on three parallel rails allow users various possibilities in respect of color, transparency and view.

Like the landscape design, the textile design of the building is also inseparably linked to the architectural concept, and is in no sense merely a more or less arbitrary decorative element. This required early and close cooperation with landscape architects Kienast Vogt and artists Rosemarie Trockel and Adrian Schiess for the textile fittings.