May 28th, 2013 – Architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron is best known for erecting high-styled super structures around the globe. But the team of 40-strong are focusing their talents in their own hometown of Basel in Switzerland, where the origins of a 14th Century castle were in desperate need of a 21st century make over. Architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, founding principals of Herzog & de Meuron, took on the small hometown project in effort to bring a historical local establishment back to life.
The new Volkshaus Basel has been turned over numerous times throughout the years. Debuting as the Castle of Bailiwick, later People’s House Basel, then a brewery and concert hall in 1874, and after that the building functioned as a central meeting place for political, social and cultural activities. In 1925, architect Henri Baur transformed the historic space back into a concert hall for the folks of Basel to enjoy.
Herzog & de Meuron restored and preserved the building back to it’s 1925 glory specifically putting their focus into the design of the bar and brasserie.
“Based on the original architecture of 1925, the Volkshaus will be preserved in all its diversity and complexity and will reflect the spirit of its own history,” says Herzog & de Meuron Senior Partner Ascan Mergenthaler. “Our intention aims to revitalize the diversity of this location which is so important to the life of Basel, while at the same time restoring its architectural identity.”
In the Brasserie, the architects re-exposed the ceiling beams by taking down a dilapidated old ceiling from the seventies. Benches divide the Brasserie in different spatial zones with the help of the tin covered bar and tables. Suspended LED luminaries hang from the ceiling with blown glass diffusers that embodies the spirited chandeliers of the buildings early days. The chairs in the Brasserie are a replica of the original People’s House chair.
Seventeenth century etchings have been transferred to the green-toned wallpaper used in the corridors of the restrooms thus establishing a link with Basel in the days of the former medieval manor.
materials like tin, leather and wood, which acquire a patina through years of use. Striking architectural elements of 1925 have been reiterated elsewhere in various scales and articulations. For instance, the oval window above the entry resonates in the window to the public passage that leads to the inner courtyard, in the swinging door between the bar and the brasserie, in an opening that reveals the historical staircase and in the mirrors of the restrooms. The sinks in the restrooms are recycled items found in Basel’s building components exchange.
Photography by Volkshaus Basel