Swiss firm Christ & Gantenbein has added a new gallery building to the Kunstmuseum Basel, featuring a graduated grey-brick facade and a monumental marble staircase.
Just a few steps from the Rhine, the Swiss architects Christ & Gantenbein erected a solitary gray structure that is connected through an underground hall with the main building. The façade of the museum consists of bricks, in red and yellow tones, which were extracted with nitrogen. Through the chemical process of the material, the building appears like a coarse-grained, black-and- white photograph in the middle of the city. Darker bricks were rather used on the lower part of the building whereas the material becomes successively brighter towards the top, forming a gentle color gradient.
Each floor of the new building has two exhibition tracts connected vertically by the monumental central staircase. Together with the foyer zones, the staircase describes a free and expressive figure in space illuminated from above by a large round skylight. By contrast, the gallery suites as such are structured by right angles. The rooms vary widely in size, ranging from cabinet to large hall.
The actual connection between the main and new buildings beneath the road is not so much an underpass as an ensemble of large open spaces leading into a generous hall that is foyer, gallery, stage, experimental space, auditorium, and function room rolled into one.
The façades are gray brick walls that exude the timeless and archaic air of an ancient ruin. They were designed to be self-supporting and monolithic, and their emphatic horizontality, with elongated bricks that are just four centimeters high, heightens their presence. The frieze, in its archetypal form, has always been part of the traditional architectural canon, but in the form it takes here it represents something quite new: sunk into the grooves of the frieze blocks are strips of LEDs that illuminate the hollows between the bricks, shedding an indirect light into the surrounding urban space.