Biozentrum Universität Basel
Architect: Kubota & Bachmann Architects
Status: Competition (2013)
Visualizer: Studio
Budget: 162.000.000 €
Scale: 21.884 ㎡ Large
Ratio: 7.402,67 €/㎡
Types: Education, University

Urban strategy

The new ETH building is conceived as an efficient and flexible architectural device, providing an answer to the multiple aspects shaping its complex environment.

On the one hand, the landscape and the urban quality of the public spaces around the building condition the building’s insertion.  The respect of the historical urban fabric, in particular the Heritage garden in the south facade of the site, is essential as it constitutes an important area of the city urban fabric throughout the centuries. At the same time, all the classed trees in the site will be preserved.

The demolition of the old annex building and the position of the new building (Klinikum2) allow for the openness of the campus site to the big garden of the university hospital, through the south garden in the site, preserving the landscape continuity.

We want to enhance the connections from the campus precinct towards the interior public spaces and the other buildings, by recessing the west and north ground-floor facades and creating large covered connection corridors to activate the circulations to the heart of the campus.

On the other hand, the volume and geometry of the building respond to several urban parameters, from the strict respect of urban regulations and program surfaces, to the cast-shadow study in order to avoid any harmful modification of the shadow pattern towards the public space.

The new ETH is compact and efficient, with generous daylight in all the public and working areas. The volume is sculpted out of the adjacent building geometries, addressing the continuity of the different planes necessary to achieve a correct urban integration. In the south façade, the Ground floor continues the alignment of Bio-Pharmazentrum building access façade, with a singular cantilever marking the main entrance and creating a transition space between the building and the garden. The East facade integrates the 3 geometries of the street and the new hospital in the different levels of the building.

Two volumes compose the building. The lower one, from level 1 to level 5 is rectangular, aligned to the limit of the site in the north and west façades, following the new hospital alignment in the east façade. The upper volume, levels 6 and 7, is detached from the lower one and recessed in the east and south facades, reducing its visual impact from the city. The public areas are located between both volumes: the lobby areas in the ground floor, and the lounge area in the fifth floor. Those spaces are connected by a big atrium with a monumental staircase and meeting spaces, and delimitated by a single transparent, setback façade, enhancing the continuity between the inside and the outside, and the views to the Rhin River from the lounge and its terrace.

The harmonic sequence of volumes, gaps, cantilevers and different façade typologies, implies a clear understanding of the program articulation, as well as a certain complexity behind the purest simplicity of cubic and flexible volumes.


The facades of the two volumes are composed by a regular double skin, ventilated, with a single security laminated glass to the outside protecting the angle-adjustable venetian blinds, and a triple glazing window to the inside, operable to access to the air cavity for cleaning and maintenance. A façade unitised system with high-performing anodized aluminium profiles is to be built.

In the upper level, the length of the façade units is smaller, and half of them are inclined from the vertical axis in the outer skin, to allow natural ventilation to the interior of the offices, as well as creating reflections and singular light effects on the upper volume, as a signal to the city.

The roof level holds some technical spaces, accessible from the central cores, under a structure of photovoltaic captor tubes. A linear glass roof covering the big atrium, protected by the same venetian blinds, finalises the composition of the roof.

Building organisation

The ETH Basel is composed of 2 underground levels, and 8 levels above ground. The first basement holds the vehicle access through a linear ramp connecting the tunnel towards the West, 1m lower than the basement level in order to accommodate the difference in height for the linear loading dock, directly connecting to the storage areas and the elevators. Some laboratories are placed in the basement, in the east façade, where a sunken patio gives the street alignment in the ground floor and provides natural daylight to both basement levels.

The building is organised around a generous vertical atrium, a source of natural daylight which crosses the whole building from east to west, creating multiple visual connections between different levels. The interior facades of the atrium are clad in reflective material with a mirror effect, multiplying the light reflections to bring the more natural light to the lower levels, and providing a technology ambience around the laboratories.

In the other direction, north – south, a linear core for vertical communications crosses the atrium, and connects all the levels.  A light monumental staircase in steel and glass is located in the centre of the building and gives a full perception of the building while connecting the different meeting spaces at each level. The central core is organised around a linear corridor, connecting the central staircase, fire staircases, lifts, technical rooms, toilets, and meeting spaces. This area is accessible to the public, and allows access to the lounge area in the fifth floor. Beyond the central core, at each level, a security gateway will be placed in both ends of the corridor to control  access to the offices and laboratories to students, professors and allowed personal, according to the level and the sector.

These two linear strips, atrium and core, divide the building in 4 sectors, which facilitates the different program areas way-finding and the relations between them. Every sector has independent access, two different orientations, connection to the big atrium, and is in close vicinity to the lifts, stairs, toilets, services, and technical shafts.

The building is flexible, organised around a structural grid that allows any kind of program layout of offices and laboratories, open or partitioned, deserved by an optimum grid of 1.80m-width corridors. A removable system of opaque partition walls between adjacent rooms, and glass partitions walls to the corridors, ensure the program requirements and the essential evolutions needed for such equipment.

In the laboratories, the easy cleaning, durability and simplicity will drive the choice of materials: White epoxy resin on the floor, no ceiling to facilitate the access to installations for maintenance and evolutions, white paint on the walls and pipes, and multi-layer wood for the furniture, and waterproof lighting panels with adjustable fluorescent tubes. In the offices and working areas annex to the labs, the same materials are provided, with an additional acoustic ceiling in micro-perforated steel sheets and invisible joints.

The public spaces are located in the ground and fifth floors, connected to the garden and the terrace. The strategic position of the lounge area, in the centre of the building with a dominant view of the city centre and the Rhin, connected to the central core and the big atrium, creates a natural continuity of the space from the ground floor and an easy access. This singular space will be used in multiple ways for students and professors, for meetings, discussions, relaxation, as well as particular events for the university campus. A raw aluminium floor and a big-scale photography printed on stretched fabric in the ceiling will finish these significant spaces.

Competition: Biozentrum Universität Basel | Team: Toshihiro Kubota, Francisco Martinez, Yves Bachmann | Consultant: Imooo AG, Sedc, Amstein + Walthert Basel AG, Confirm AG | Structural engineer: Bauingenieure HKP AG | Landscape: Bassinet Turquin Paysage | Model maker: Model & co | Post date: 02/02/2014 | Views: 3.832