Residential building Schwarzpark – Miller & Maranta

architect_ Miller & Maranta
location_ Basel, Switzerland
project year_2001-2004
photography_ Ruedi Walti

from the architects_ 
The purpose of the published competition of the department of Building Construction and the Central Office of governmental real estate traffic of Basel-Stadt in the year 2000/01 was, to build a multi-family residence with 3 to 6 room-apartments in the middle price range. It was decided to build at the south end of Schwarzpark park area, but due to the space restrictions and living space requirements, demands were forced to build a single eight-floor apartment building.

The Schwarzpark once belonged to the Villa Schwarz, which was located on top of the inclining slope on the Gellertstreet, where the farm buildings and stables for the park were located. The Schwarzpark is situated at the end of the Gellert quarter towards the east. The premises lie along the Gellertstreet above the prominent slope and then slopes downward into a park area towards the northeast. It follows the meandering course of the St. Alban-Dych, a levee, and the old tree ally towards the adjacent Lehenmatt quarter. The park area narrows to the south and is bordered by the Gellertstreet, the Redingstreet and the levee. In this city area development, starting at St. Alban-Gate, and running along Gellertstreet, the park is considered to be the city border between the Gellert and Lehenmatt as well as the cantonal border to the Canton of Basel-Land.

The new residential building occupies this most southern point of the park area. It emphasizes the southern town planning at the crossing of Gellert and Redingstreet and the bridge over the St. Alban-Dych. At the same time, as an eight story residential building, it starts a dialogue with the surrounding buildings of the multi- story buildings Lehenmatt or the Bethesta hospital. Towards the park, the structure goes eastward to the grass covered open space. It becomes the house in the park, which is the reference to the depth of the park area and the adjacent trees. The multi- family dwelling reflects living in the park. With its town planning formulation, the project tries to react to the aspects of the situation. The town planning autonomy is underlined especially with the specific interpretation of the place.

The building is accessible through the old entrance door of the park. Meandering walkways lead the visitor past trees to both of the entrances. One enters the building through the entrance halls and catches a glimpse to the St. Alban-Dych. Over the short flight of stairs one reaches the upper split-level and finds his way to the living floors through an inner stairway, which is lit from above. The apartments are accessible by a middle hall. Towards the north and south are bigger apartments, which are accessible through a central hall, which leads to the three-sided lighted living room. To the east is a sleeping area with a tiled floor and towards the west are multi-use rooms and a loggia. In the middle part of the structure are similar but smaller apartments with end-to-end rooms, which open up toward the park to the northwest and catch the morning sun towards the southeast. The two biggest apartments and a smaller one are placed on the upper split level while the cellars and the laundry rooms are situated on the lower split-level. The car garage, accessible form the Redingstreet, is in the basement. The bicycle stands are located on the backside of the wall towards the levee.

The apartment house is thought to be a tree-like object in the Schwarzpark, the old tree population of which emits a strong, stable atmosphere. Referring to the trunks and the branches of the big trees, the concrete structure of the facade stretches a transparent volume. The filigree appearance of the structure is underlined by the big windows and the glass balustrade, which transfer the surrounding trees on the building by the reflection of the park. The impression is supported by the coloring, a brown-gray glaze on a mineral base, which was applied from the concrete facade all the way up to the entrance hall and to the staircase. This method detracts from the materiality of the concrete and suggests bark and trunks of the neighboring trees. The slanting directed Rafflamellas strengthens the plasticity of the structure and emits a character, which hints at the leaves of the trees. On the inside, the apartments are kept simple with the light yellow painted ingrain wallpaper, the white ceilings and the oak parquet floor. The windows are painted dark brown and frame the view of the surrounding trees. In this way, the inside facade is, in terms of color, united with the outside space and conveys the feeling of living in the trees.

The outside construction is a mixed construction of prefabricated, on the spot built parts, which forms a self-bearing outside facade. Only on the narrow side are they connected to the ceiling by single spikes. The wall construction is a concrete facade, with inner insulation, covered by plaster-cardboard panels. With the controlled ventilation, the solar panels which provide the warm water and the compact facade, the windows have a U-value of 0.8, the Schwarzpark was built with the Minergie Standard.
The park residential building on the south side of the Schwarzpark wants to be understood as a building, which combines the qualities of living in the country and the advantages of residential building. With the closeness to the city and the adjacent local recreation area, the Schwarzpark offers an optimal compromise between living in the city and living in the countryside. Living in the park and the relationship to nature gives the residential building a quality and a generosity that can only very rarely be found with new buildings in the city.

Courtesy of Miller & Maranta