Building 1 is the tallest and most distinctive building on the Roche site in Basel, marking a
progression in the development plan that has emerged in logical steps commensurate with
the organic growth of the corporation out of the original Hoffmann-La Roche AG industrial
complex. The new building is situated in the southern part of the Roche grounds, alongside
Building 52, which is currently the highest structure. The continued development of the
Roche grounds follows the 2006 plan drawn up by Roche to introduce structural clarity by
locating research and development in the northern sector and the Global Corporate
Headquarters in the southern sector. Building 1 is the embodiment of that vision of clarity on
Grenzacherstrasse. The proposed site is currently flanked to the east and the south by
production and research buildings which can be replaced in the course of site development
by new office buildings in keeping with the plans.
In designing the 178m building, the main focus was on developing a highrise typology that
visualises and fosters the internal organisation and communication within the various
departments. The tower will house approximately 2000 workplaces relating to various
departments currently scattered throughout the city. These are to be brought together in one
place in a process of so-called “office re-entry”. This will allow the smooth flow of
communication between and within the various departments in a way that is not currently
possible. Office re-entry involves synergies enabled not only by the convergence of staff from
different fields but also by the overall sense of corporate identity which will be enhanced by
the integration of staff on the site.
The architecture of Building 1 will express and actively encourage this new potential for
communication. It will be flexible and will provide attractive workplaces and infrastructural facilities for the staff. The challenge lies in creating an urban environment rather than a
mono-functional office building in which each separate floor is accessed only via one central
The building is a 41-storey, 178m tall highrise, tapering towards the top. The local building
plan defines the distinctive wedge-shaped form, slanting down towards the west and almost
vertical to the east. The zoning envelope is the base for a clear and regularly stepped form
with set backs in a two terrace interval to the west and, rising nearly vertically, with subtle
and even steps over three floors to the east.
The building is vertically structured by superimposed floor slabs of varying sizes, which are
sculpturally expressed on the exterior by horizontal white parapet bands. These parapet
bands are typical of the modernism that has characterised the architectural development of
Roche since the 1930s, a stylistic influence that still prevails in numerous buildings today. In
this respect, Building 1 is a contemporary interpretation of the architectural identity and
tradition of Roche.
The simple yet striking shape and the height of the building firmly anchor the Roche grounds
within the urban setting. Because of its geometry, Building 1 looks entirely different
depending on the angle of view, making it a recognisable landmark for each part of the city
from which it is seen. To the south, seen from the Rhine, it appears as a stepped wedge.
Depending on the light reflected on the facade, the balustrades and windows merge together
to a light volume which dissolve towards the sky. From the east and west, along
Grenacherstrasse, it appears as a slender vertical or staggered tower, who’s contours are
emphasized by its three dimensional balustrades. Light and shadows emphasise this
distinctive impression. At the lower floors the building relates to the street scale by setting
back the band windows. Hence, a smooth transition can be achieved between the human
scale and the sleek facades to the north and southern side of the building, the urban scale.
The uses are stacked in accordance with the clearance specifications of the site. The regular
stepping provides open-air patio areas that can be accessed from the shared multi-storey
communication zones linked by sweeping spiral staircases running over two or three floors.
These communication platforms are situated on the east and west sides of the building at
various levels. In this way, points of orientation are created on each floor where staff can
meet to chat, hold informal meetings, relax or take a break in the lounge areas. The spiral
staircases are designed in the architectural tradition of Roche, echoing the elegantly
sweeping staircase in Otto R. Salvisberg‘s still widely admired managerial building of 1937.
The height of the building ensures that the 2000 workplaces enjoy fine views, while the
relatively narrow form allows ideal natural lighting conditions. The floorplan and structure of
the individual floors permit a high degree of versatility in partitioning so that individual offices
can be opened up to form open-plan work areas. The glazing in the office areas is
complemented by walk-on patio areas in the communication zones, providing outdoor space
and natural ventilation.
Areas with a large occupation number, such as the 500-seat auditorium, the staff restaurant
as well as the central meeting rooms, are located at the lower level where they are easily
accessible by all employees. These areas take the form of a cantilevered volume, clearly
marking the main entrance with the large covered outdoor space. The offices and meeting
rooms are located from the 5th floor upwards. The top floor is occupied by a cafeteria with
outstanding views over Basel and the surrounding area.
Quote Pierre de Meuron
“Whereas externally, Building 1 is in keeping with the architectural idiom set forth by Roche,
internally it fulfils the ever-changing demands on a modern and innovative workplace
environment. Building 1 is innovative because its inner structure was designed first and
foremost with the patterns of movement and communication needs of its occupants in mind.”
Quote Jacques Herzog
“The media in particular make much of the fact that it’s the tallest building in Switzerland, as
well as the tallest Herzog & de Meuron have built to date. However, neither Roche nor we as
architects set out to break records. Rather, Building 1 exemplifies our position in the current
discourse surrounding the problems of uncontrolled development, both in Basel and
throughout Switzerland. In areas where there is already dense urban settlement, the aim
should be continued, targeted densification.
Quote Pierre de Meuron
“The completion of Building 1 also marks a milestone in a working partnership between
Roche and Herzog & de Meuron which has endured some twenty years and more. We are
both pleased and proud that such tradition-conscious yet innovative and committed clients
continue to place their trust in our services.”
Site development Building 1 is the tallest and most distinctive building on the Roche site in Basel, marking aprogression in the development plan that has emerged in logical steps commensurate withthe organic growth of the corporation out of the original Hoffmann-La Roche AG industrialcomplex. The new building is situated in the southern part of the Roche grounds, alongsideBuilding 52, which is currently the highest structure. The continued development of theRoche grounds follows the 2006 plan...
- Year 2015
- Work started in 2011
- Work finished in 2015
- Status Completed works
- Type Office Buildings / Corporate Headquarters