Novartis Campus Park, Basel, Switzerland

To the Rhine

Client: Novartis Pharma AG
Period: 2006 – 2016
Surface area: 63 000m2

Model studies

Geological maps of the Basel area expose a hidden landscape: The Rhine Valley, formed by glaciers and rivers  – nowadays overlayed by settlements, agriculture and other  traces of human use. A subterranean garage separates the Campus Park site from this natural fundament: Two hectares of poured concrete, like a new, anthropogenic, geological crust, provide the fundament  for a new park landscape and at the same time make it a large scale green roof.

The design for novartis Park traces the landscape of Upper Rhine Valley as a composition of the Valley’s geomorphic and vegetative phenomena. Slightly falling from the upper terraces down to the rhine, the park sequentially reconstructs the natural phenomena of the surrounding rhine terraces  on a small scale and merges them by means of design into an atmospheric park landscape. Not only geologically but also botanically it refers to the surroundings, working mainly with the potential natural vegetation.

The park area situated farthest from the river’s shore, is designed as a forest of indigenous woody plants where huge glacial erratics have remained as the oldest evidence of glacial activity. Deeper in the wood, the picture seems frozen in a moment of devastation: Like in steep woodland after heavy annual snowmelt, limetrees stand tilted to uncomfortable angles, the trunks buried up to 60 cm in a flood of pebbles.

Large expanses of lawns form the middle section of the park, which is planted with diverse, mainly exotic, solitaire woody plants. The paths diverge into the rising terrain, reconstructing another phenomenon typical for Basel: The „Hohlweg“, a narrow track cut into the earth, overgrown into  a tunnel of dense shrub. Following these tracks, the visitor passes through the middle section and reaches the lower terraces facing the rhine. Here, an alluvial iris reed-grass-vegetation is punctuated with solitary birch- and cottonwood-groups standing proud of the vegetal horizon and allowing the visitor free view to the near rhine or,  turning around, a look over the entire park.