The key architectural and urban-planning feature of the new hall complex developed by Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron is the City Lounge. This is a covered-over public space that can be likened to a railway station concourse or market hall and is intended to revitalise Exhibition Square.
The open hall not only constitutes the entrance to the exhibitions but is also intended to become a focus of public life. In architectural terms, the City Lounge can be regarded as an attempt to turn the inwardly-facing circular courtyard architecture of Hall 2 (with the big clock) inside out and keep it open all year round.
The new hall building is made up of three hall elements positioned one on top of the other. These protrude into the street space to varying extents and react in different ways to the dissimilar urban conditions that prevail.
The ground floor relates directly to the street and the public space. The sweeping facade at ground floor level marks a response to the flow of people and to the corresponding space requirements at the tram stops and in front of the entrances to the exhibition halls. This ground-floor tract has been designed first and foremost with generous, large-area glazing in a bid to ensure spatial transparency and, at the same time, to open up the hall complex and stimulate public life.
The two upper storeys of the hall are displaced vis-à-vis each other, giving the impression of separate entities. This architectural differentiation is reinforced through the rotation of the facade surfaces in a bid to respect the natural lighting of the neighbouring buildings. By contrast to the transparent ground floor, the upper floors are of a closed design, while simultaneously displaying a liveliness through their lamellar facade and, at specific points, providing visual connections with the city towards the outside.
The proportions of Exhibition Square have undergone a major change with the new building. What was previously an elongated rectangle without any striking spatial structure has now become more or less a square. Together with the Rosental area, this forms the main outdoor space in the Messe Basel district, which is also a big residential area at the same time.
The new Hall 1 complex with two upper storeys, which was completed in 2013, extends over Exhibition Square and provides a total of 38,000 square metres of exhibition space on the ground floor and the two upper floors taken together. With a hall height of ten metres on the ground floor and eight metres on the upper floors it can accommodate two and even three-storey stands.
On the ground floor to the south of Exhibition Square is the multifunctional Event Hall, which can be used as exhibition space or for staging a wide variety of events. Hall 1 is linked directly to Halls 2 to 4 and also to the Congress Center Basel via overground walkways.
The new hall complex – and the whole of Hall 1 – is accessed from Exhibition Square through the North and South Foyers in the City Lounge, which boasts a striking atrium. This is also where the tram stop is located. Different publicly-accessible third-party uses are accommodated around the edge of the City Lounge – a restaurant, a ramen bar, and a shop/bistro.
The new building designed by Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron combines functionality and aesthetics in the ideal manner.
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