The master plan presented by Vittorio Magnano Lampugnani at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition is for a private company, even though it operates at city scale. Designed for the Swiss pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Novartis, it demanded a balanced response to the needs of industry, commerce, and human interaction, as well as the rationalization of a site that had advanced, unplanned, for a century. The plan also required finding a common ground between the approaches of many architecture practices from around the world: individual buildings are to be designed and constructed by architects such as Peter Märkli, Diener & Diener, SANAA, and David Chipperfield. Lampugnani’s vision is represented here in the form of a large-scale model, allowing visitors to appreciate its scale, complexity, and careful poise.
The project began at the end of 2000, when Novartis planned to carry out a fundamental architectural restructuring of its vast site in Basel-St. Johann, between Elsässerstrasse, Voltastrasse, the national border, and the Rhine. The site featured a plain, elegant main administrative building by Eckenstein & Kelterborn of Basel and Brodbeck & Bony of Liestal, which was gradually surrounded over the years by a fairly random accumulation of buildings with varying uses, heights, and signatures.
It was decided that the master plan would focus on communication as its central aspect. The project was developed according to the model of a pre-industrial city – that is, a location adapted entirely to human beings instead of coaches, trams, or cars, and a place where people could enjoy meeting and talking to each other. The resulting project – which will progressively reach completion over the next thirty years – uses established principles for the relationship between architecture and human behavior, reimagining them in modern form, and behind gates: a corporate campus that is city-like, but separate from the urban context around it.