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Christ & Gantenbein

Basel, Switzerland


After internationally acclaimed projects in London, Mexico, and China, Christ & Gantenbein continues to cement its reputation with museum concepts such as the renovations and extensions to the Kunstmuseum in Basel (2016), the Swiss National Museum in Zurich (2016), as well as the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne (ongoing). Housing schemes in Paris and Switzerland, as well as the Lindt Chocolate Competence Centre in Switzerland are, among others, currently on the drawing board. Five associates and thirty-five architects staff the practice established in 1998. Through the years, Christ & Gantenbein have equally committed to academic activities: most recent lectureships were at the ETH Zurich (2010–2015) and the Harvard GSD (2015–2016). In 2016, the studio was also invited to contribute the results of its work and research to the 15th edition of the Venice Biennale as well as the 4th Lisbon Architecture Triennial.

CAB 2 Contribution

Project Overview

Monumental Objet Trouvé

In a society where most processes are engaged with the present, architects represent a minority who still acknowledges the past through the simple fact that their work has the potential to last hundreds of years. Thus, architecture is always devising strategies of appropriation; this is why Christ & Gantenbein look at precedents. Their project for the Tribune Tower depicts a building as part of a typological collection of anonymous urban architecture. These buildings express tectonics and materiality, but, most of all, they represent an interest in typological precision: where pragmatic rules condition architecture. The Doric Column of the 21st century—a contemporary counterpart to Adolf Loos’s 1922 proposal—is architecture of pure tectonics embedded in an automatic garage tower. This exercise in fundamental tectonics, expressed in the most honest structure and in a denial of design, reaches classical beauty; it becomes an ideal design out of its tension with the context. This caricature of a perfect high-rise—statics, tectonics, infill, and lift—is, here, celebrated as a monument to architectural perfection. This act of design is simply to declare this objet trouvé as part of the legacy of historical architecture. The chosen model is an existing garage tower in São Paulo. Built in 1964 by Abelardo de Souza and Bernardo Vaisman, the Garagem Roosevelt conveys the classical harmony of technical objects: its concrete structural grid becomes thinner towards the top and bricks and concrete fill its gaps. Its four facades are different. A concrete party wall alternates with two facades articulated by different structural rhythms, while one of its corners is subtly chamfered and grounds the prism in its site: the wild topography of central São Paulo.

The City is the Site