Eye to eye with downtown Basel The ambitious vision of Switzerland’s 2,000-Watt-Society is a driving force behind Basel’s Erlenmatt West mixed-use development. Here, Züst Gübeli Gambetti contributed an essential component that should bring the whole project to life.
When Deutsche Bahn left the Erlenmatt site, the opportunity arose for a new neighbourhood that would ease the housing pressure on near by Kleinbasel communities.For Züst Gübeli Gambetti, it was a chance to use the Swiss test planning process to examine the latent urban possibilities in one trapezoidal section of the site’s western tract. Their resulting intervention has the spatial and social potential to initiate dialogue with the surrounding city and, above all, with passers-by and residents.
From the start, the architects aimed to breathe urban life into their open perimeter block. The ground floor is where the threshold be-tween the private and public realms becomes perceptible, where residents and the city meet eye to eye, and where the emergence of true “urbanity” must be fostered by good design. Züst Gübeli Gambetti’s project succeeds in introducing programmatic variety with a fine-grain mix of commercial uses and housing forms. Conceived in response to its heterogeneous setting, these hybrid typologies should promote interaction and social diversification within the project and beyond.
The plaza fronting the development is its crucial link to the city. Here, a striking façade establishes an urban presence and cantilevers out to shelter the storefronts below. In the west wing, split-level studios on the ground floor provide space for living, working, retail or any combination thereof.With their high ceilings and private entrances, these studios should allow pioneering residents to establish a sustainable relationship between the building and the surrounding community. The east wing of the development houses owner-occupied flats.To the north of the central courtyard, row houses – a quintessential Basel typology – reduce the overall density and grant the rest of the development unprecedented views for such an urban location. Distinctive entryways and other recognizable features highlight the site’s specific characteristics and ultimately strengthen residents’ identification with their neighbourhood. Text: Michelle Corrodi