Xaveer De Geyter

Natural History Museum and City Archive . Basel

Xaveer De Geyter . Natural History Museum and City Archive . Basel (1)

Xaveer De Geyter Architects

This competition is a real challenge on how to combine the two programs – the Basel City Archive and the Museum for Natural History – in such a way that they interact maximally with the public realm of the surrounding city. The two main restrictions in order to do so are the long, small and irregular shaped building site along a railroad track and the majority of the program that does not allow direct daylight to enter the building.


We propose one building volume containing both programs. The building is designed as a horizontal skyscraper perfectly adapting to the restrictions of the site. The delivery zone is situated underground, the tower volume works as a plinth along the street that becomes a gradually stepped tower at the south side. This composition combines a strong identity with a volumetric articulation towards the Entenwidstrasse.
The building is mainly a closed volume. On the street side however, a long volume is cut out. Here, a glass façade allows visual contact between the publicly accessible program of the building and the street. This cut-out continues through the building, rises on one side to the level of the adjacent bridge, while on the opposite side descending towards the lowest level. This canyon through the building provides physical access to the museum and the archives and creates a visual interaction with the string of public parts of the museum and the archives. Behind a glass façade unfolds a series of public functions: the reading room of the city archives, the auditorium, the foyer with the entrance, and the exhibition space in the section above, the cafeteria, the forum, the museum library and museum shop at the lower level. Many visual links are created showing the internal activities of the two programs both from the inside as well as towards the street.
The largest part of the building is covered with rolled steel, protected from corrosion with a matt, transparent PUR paint. Only the cut-out at the street side is as transparent and light as possible. The offices are in dark limousine glass. The steel-blue colour scheme of the closed volume is in strong contrast with the crystal clear glass of the façade of the cut-out and the polished, light-reflective sheet steel for the ceiling of the canyon.

Restricted competition entry. Third round.

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