The Swiss city founded by the ancient Romans on the Rhine, in fact, is a pearl of absolute value in architectural terms: a blend of history, culture, evolution and modernity that has few peers in the world. Basel is a city in constant evolution. Walking down its streets, you can come across visible remnants of the old Roman town, but also very new, iconic towers of pharmaceutical firms like Roche and Novartis, looming in the new urban skyline over the Gothic spires of the Minster, the cathedral of Basel built in the Middle Ages, near the famous Mövenpick hotel designed by the architects Miller & Maranta, with interiors by Matteo Thun.
The Swiss Architecture Museum and Kunstmuseum Basel
Strolling through the streets of Basel, architecture buffs have a wide range of choices. One obligatory stop is the Swiss Architecture Museum. Founded in 1984 as an excellent location for exhibitions, it is the best place to discover the evolution of European architecture. The Kunstmuseum Basel, on the other hand, is divided into two buildings. The first, the Hauptbau, contains a collection of works by artists of the Upper Rhine and the most outstanding painters and sculptors of the 20th and 21st centuries, subdivided in various rooms. The second, the Neubau (designed by Christ & Gantenbein), is behind an austere façade of gray brick and small windows, connected to the Hauptbau by means of an impressive underground passage.
The historical center of Basel: MessePlatz and the Stadtcasino
The historical center of the Swiss city is an outdoor museum for lovers of design and architecture. The tour begins with the tram stop at MessePlatz, and the new hall by world-famous Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, an exhibition space of thousands of square meters with an iconic ring-shaped roof that frames the sky and draws the gaze upward.
From 16 to 19 June 2022, this is the location of the very popular event Art Basel, a fair of modern and contemporary art with exhibitors from all over the world, offering a 360-degree overview of coming trends. Another striking work by Herzog & de Meuron (who have created over 30 projects in the city) is the Stadtcasino, Basel’s main salon: a concert hall and location for events of all kinds.
The Novartis Pavillon in Basel
One of the latest architectural gems of Basel is the Novartis Pavillon. In the St. Johann district, it has been designed by Michele De Lucchi and AMDL Circle. The Novartis Pavillon looks like a glistening modern spacecraft, and contains a museum of medicine. In time, the building has become a sort of temple for students and lovers of modern architecture.
Fondation Beyeler by Renzo Piano
Just outside the city of Basel stands Fondation Beyeler, a museum created to house the exceptional modern art collection of Ernst Beyeler. The building has been designed by Renzo Piano: a structure entirely relying on natural light, immersed in a green setting, with a very rigorous layout and a roof that is ‘independent’ with respect to the building: supported by a metal structure, it extends well beyond the perimeter formed by the walls.
Not far away, but already on German soil (Basel is on the border between Switzerland, Germany and France), is the Vitra Campus, a unique collection of architecture: Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry, SANAA, Àlvaro Siza, Tadao Ando and others. A must-see destination for every design lover.