Stadtcasino Basel Reopens

John Hill
2. September 2020
Photo © Ruedi Walti (All photographs courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron)

Herzog & de Meuron has restored and extended the Musiksaal that is home to the Basel Symphony Orchestra. The extension was done "in the same neo-Baroque architectural tradition" of the 19th-century original designed by Johann Jakob Stehlin.

Photo © Ruedi Walti

The Stadtcasino Basel dates to 1824, when it first opened, but its current facilities come from later: the 1876 Musiksaal, the Hans Huber Hall from 1905, and the Casino completed in 1939. Herzog & de Meuron, commissioned in 2012, focused their efforts on the first two pieces, both designed by Stehlin (the Casino was designed by Kehlstadt & Brodtbeck).

Photos © Ruedi Walti

The Swiss architects were hired five years after voters turned down the competition-winning design by Zaha Hadid Architects to wrap the Musikaal and Casino in a decidedly Hadid-esque volume that would have devoured much of Barfüsserplatz. Herzog & de Meuron took a dramatically tame approach — tame relative to Hadid's design and the duo's own oeuvre — by extending the original building slightly toward the adjacent Basel Historical Museum. The architects literally reconstructed the original by scanning the facade with digital tools and matching it with an insulated, reinforced concrete structure covered in wood.

Photos © Ruedi Walti

Inside, both the 1,400-seat concert hall and smaller Hans Huber Saal for chamber music were restored to their 1905 state, with acoustics taking priority. For the larger hall the architects opened up a skylight and windows, recreated the original seating and balcony, and duplicated the original parquet flooring.

Photos © Ruedi Walti

The extension, though, is given over to foyers and bars for the public, as well as rehearsal and dressing rooms for the musicians. The foyers are on two levels and are contained by the rear facade of the original building and a mirrored copy opposite (photos at top and bottom), while literal mirrors cover the two end walls.

Photo © Ruedi Walti

In the words of the architects, "Outside, we focused on simulation in designing the extension of the Stadtcasino, while inside we celebrated the stylistic elements of the 19th-century by heightening the artificiality of form, material, and color."

Photo © Ruedi Walti

As these photos make clear, the foyers and staircases were designed to increase drama. Loggia-like recesses were added to the stairs to allow people to linger during intermissions, basking in the red surfaces: the woven wallpaper was reproduced by Prelle, the same manufacturer as the original.

Photos © Ruedi Walti

The Stadtcasino Basel reopened on August 22 with a concert by the Basel Symphony Orchestra.

Photo © Ruedi Walti

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