Text description provided by the architects. Christ & Gantenbein have realised a new housing and a workshop building for Wohn- Werk, an institution for handicapped people based in Basel, a project for which the office had won the competition in 2003. The institution had invited for the competition, as a renovation of the existing buildings was not possible due to their structural deficits.
The two new houses for WohnWerk, one housing building and one workshop building, aim for a new concept of usage of the area and help to integrate it into the structure of the neighbourhood. The former housing building in the courtyard has been replaced by a five-floor construction on Missionsstrasse and it now represents the institution’s new face towards the street. The building gap around the courtyard is closed and at the same time a gate is created, inviting into the newly arranged patio and leading to the workshops. The inhabitants are now in a direct relation with their surroundings and are at the same time more included in the perception of the public.
Thanks to its varied floor plans the housing building provides individual rooms for all inhabitants. Four inhabitants each form a residential group with their carer on one floor, sharing a community living room, kitchen and loggia. The building’s individuality inside, that offers a private home to each resident, also shows on the outside: The windows of the house have different formats and this small variation enlivens the façade. The silvery colour on the rough plaster also reinforces the vitality of the façade by reflecting the daylight’s changing shimmer and shades.
A passage is leading from the street into the courtyard and to the new workshop building, where 120 handicapped people work. The extensive, all around glazed structure has been distorted in order to fit into the scarce space available and it integrates well into the existing houses around the courtyard. As a consequence the building gains an unmistakable expression, meeting highly functional demands of the floor plan and at the same time still enabling very special room situations. The generous glazing adds to the specific atmosphere by setting interior and exterior into a direct context. The workshop has been clad with a fine-grained, also silvery plaster which underlines the closeness and togetherness of the two buildings.
The area has been planned as a lively and sympathetic location in the city where neighbours and inhabitants come together. A public café on the ground floor and facing the street invites the urban quarter for a meeting and the newly designed exterior surroundings are also usable for the neighbourhood. This newly created situation supports the aim of WohnWerk to integrate handicapped people in everyday, ordinary living conditions. The project costing 20 million Swiss Francs could be realized thanks to private donations and to the contribution of the federal government.