Few firms are as adept at remastering historic buildings as Herzog & de Meuron. From the Tate Modern in London to Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, founders Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have proven time and again that strategic preservation is as innovative — if not more so — than new construction. Their latest project, an update to Switzerland’s Stadtcasino Basel concert venue, is no exception.
Dating back to 1876 and situated along the southern periphery of their hometown’s Cultural Mile, the complex is home to one of Europe’s oldest and most acoustically prized music halls. Herzog & de Meuron’s challenge was to wipe clean the patchwork amalgam of previous renovations and replace it with a single coherent facade.
Rather than adding an anachronistic extension in a contemporary style, however, the architects digitally scanned the stone masonry of the existing neo-baroque exterior and scrupulously recreated it with reinforced concrete and painted wood, swelling the volume of the original envelope to gain much-needed extra space.
Behind this evocative copy, the 8,488-square-metre Stadtcasino gives way to an equally theatrical interior. The walls and winding staircase are lined with a decadent, ruby-toned woven brocade, a reproduction of the original 19th-century wallpaper first designed for Paris’s Palais Garnier opera house. Shadowy alcoves are illuminated by fluted LED lanterns, conceived as a contemporary response to the concert hall’s monumental crystal chandeliers. A silvery hammered-metal ceiling catches their glow, adding depth and brightness to the otherwise moody and dramatic space.
The extension also allowed for an enlarged foyer (with rotund scalloped balconies that function as plush seating above), service spaces, dressing rooms and rehearsal studios. In the concert hall itself, refurbishments and repairs restored the palatial interior to its original state following the first renovation in 1905. “We wanted to bring together neo-baroque, classicist and contemporary elements to create a new kind of architecture that can exist only in Basel,” the studio says, “in this location so rich in tradition yet so contemporary.”
“We wanted to bring together neo-baroque, classicist and contemporary elements to create a new kind of architecture that can exist only in Basel,” say Herzog & de Meuron.