Wednesday, November 09, 2011

WohnWerk, Basel, by Christ & Gantenbein

A scheme that combines live and work space for a community of adults with learning difficulties invests archetypal building types with a high level of specificity
‘I love it when you see those big, blank walls of beautiful old rendered buildings, covered in silver graffiti,” says Emanuel Christ, with alarming relish. These might be unexpected words from an architect whose built portfolio is dominated by careful interventions in historic buildings — from the renovation of the 1898 Swiss National Museum in Zurich, to the renewal of the 1855 Swiss Church in London. But Christ & Gantenbein is not a practice to be pigeonholed, and at its latest project in Basel this comment makes perfect sense.
Walking down Missionsstrasse, a long, straight, nondescript street in the leafy north-west quarter of the city, past the homogeneous grain of five-storey apartment buildings, each crisply rendered in its own shade of off-white, I almost miss the very building I have come here to see. Continuing the parapet line and facade plane of the neighbouring building, its elevation is a mute, stripped-back surface, punctured by a regular grid of windows, not too dissimilar to many others along the street. Yet, on second glance, it jumps out as something strangely other. The surface shimmers in the morning sunlight, glowing brighter than its neighbours, and its windows appear to dance — an illusion produced by their differing sizes and subtly offset positioning. Crossing the street, it is revealed as a decidedly alien object, encrusted with a globular silvery surface, as if calcified by some mutant mineral...
Read full article here
Originally published in BD, 9 November 2011