Landscape ArchitectThorbjörn Andersson with Sweco architects
ConsultantsSchönholzer + Staufer GmbH/ Beat Rösch, Basler + Partner (structural engineering)
Text description provided by the architects. The Physic Garden is a place to celebrate sensuous phenomena of all kinds. It is a place where mystic scents, changing colors, and seasonal variety can be enjoyed and studied. It is also a test bed for pharmacological research.
This Physic Garden at Novartis Campus is based on the monastery garden where, in ancient times, monks developed their knowledge about the pharmaceutical properties in plants, a knowledge that provided the foundation for today´s research efforts. These were often hidden places, laboratories in the outdoors, secluded from public life, containing secrets of utmost importance.
Consequently, the Physic Garden at Novartis is hidden, spatially organized as a theatre, or as a labyrinth, or as an onion with many layers. The garden is semi-enclosed, and the visitor enters through a zig-zag movement between backdrops of tall hedges of yew (Taxus) and beech (Fagus). The garden reveals itself step by step. The one who searches will find; a statement which is as relevant to the researcher of today as it was to the medieval monk.
Having arrived at the center, a sunken planting bed opens up, containing 31 species of pharmaceutical plants organized in a striped pattern. The slightly sunkenness of the basin adds to the preciousness of the plants, and placed inside the frame of a low granite wall, these fragile specimens become untouchable. They are viewed from slightly above, and we can read the flower bed as a colorful and textured painting or a striped carpet. Bridges of light construction, without railings, span the sunken bed, permitting the daring visitor a closer examination of the plants, each of which is labeled with an engraved bronze plaque mounted at the edge of the bed.
Along the sides of the sunken bed are four “log racks”, a collection of logs stacked in piles whose forms complement the screens of hedges, and are also reminiscent of a library. The types of wood selected represent tree species from which substances have been extracted and used in ethnopharmacology. All in all, 70 plant species are on display in the Physic Garden.