Ozeanium, Basel Zoo
Basel, Switzerland 2012
Client: Zoo Basel Competition
The proposed design for the Basel Ozeanium—a competition for a building of numerous indoor pools to show the life of the sea—sets out to make a representative building for Basel Zoo. The vertical form of the building elevates the low-lying landscape of the zoo’s pavilions, paths, and river gardens, in a figure that addresses the scale of the city.
At the point where the Birsig river is suppressed beneath the city floor, the new building rises in proud constrast with the broad spaces of the Heuwaage viaduct, tempering their banality. The vertical axis of the building extends down to vaults in the basement at the level of the river, and up to rooftop terraces with distant views. The contents of the Ozeanium, with its extraordinary ocean environments, specialist information and scientific research, are represented as a tall and dense body, tightly held up by high walls wrapping around the building. The convex shells of the walls, and the concavities at the base, make a form akin to an elaborate vessel.
Instead of transparency or formal rhetoric, the design adopts the manners of nineteenth-century museums, which used ornament and sculptures on the façade, as a way of announcing the purpose of the institution. The façade playfully speaks to the passer-by about the unusual nature of the Ozeanium; it is clad with a fine network of precast pieces, with a pattern of scales that integrates small perforations and larger screens, filtering daylight to the interior. The scalloped profile of its top, its external chambers and arcades at the base, along with its mosaics and fountains, make reference to the architecture of baroque gardens—with forms of nature, water, and planting drawn together into environments of wonderful fantasy.
The interior spaces of the Ozeanium are mysterious and formally varied, and draw the scenography of the pools, rock cavities and luxurious conservatories closely together with an interior architecture. An unusual range of atmospheres amplifies the breadth and spectacle of the marine environments: spaces that are grand, and others that are intimate and strange; spaces that are brutal in their directness; and others, whose extent is not easily perceived.
Caruso St John Architects
Adam Caruso, Peter St John
Martin Pasztori, Will Pirkis, Ted Swift, Steffi Wedde
Conzett, Bronzini, Gartmann AG
Kalt+Halbeisen Ingenieurbüro AG
OAP Offermann Architektur & Projektmanangement
Anton & Ghiggi
Enerpeak Salzmann AG
Gruner AG Ingenieure und Planer
IAT International Aqua-Tech