Herzog & de Meuron redefines the exhibition space
Globally in-demand architecture practice finds time to create the perfect exhibition hall in native Switzerland
Herzog & de Meuron seem to be here, there and everywhere these days, so it makes a change to hear of a project in their own country. The practice's expansion of the Messe Basel Exibition Centre in Switzerland is expected to be ready for business in April. It’s part of a worldwide demand for bigger and better exhibition spaces, and in conjunction with the project the architects have defined what they think this requires: “Ideally, exhibition halls should be as spacious as possible, rectangular in layout, with wide spans and ceiling heights of around 10m, in order to provide the flexibility and versatility required for exhibition purposes.”
Pretty much all of this has been fulfilled at Messe Basel. From the outside, it’s a delicately latticed affair in shimmering metal. The new 38000sq m exhibition hall, replaces the old Hall 1, which was deemed unfit for exhibition requirements in terms of ceiling heights, column spacing or the load bearing capacity of the floors. Meanwhile, the ground floor exterior walls are glazed, to improve the sense of accessibility.
The Swiss architects also hope their €350m extension will revitalise Exhibition Square, the Messeplatz, which is intended to be used by both exhibition goers and the general public. Inside, the foyer boasts a lofty cylindrical atrium, with the two top floors slightly offset from each other.
But this is not just about the venue and its immediate environs. The ambition is for the wider area to benefit from this development. As the architects say: “This concentration of exhibition centre activities is also an important urban planning matter for the development of the surrounding Kleinbasel neighbourhood, aimed at regaining outlying exhibition spaces on the present Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) area for apartments, offices and small businesses while simultaneously upgrading the Messeplatz as a focal point in Kleinbasel.”
Exhibition centres can be dry and uninspiring places, and H&deM’s piece de resistance here should help give this one some personality. On the ground floor is a covered public space, which the architects compare to a railway station concourse or indoor market. Called the City Lounge, it will be open all hours, to host events during and between exhibitions, with local and international shops and eateries.