Swiss firm beats UK teams to design Basel city centre aquarium
Zaha Hadid loses out for thin visitor aisles and “dynamic” interior
A Swiss practice has won an international competition to design a new aquarium in the centre of Basel, beating off firms including Zaha Hadid Architects, David Chipperfield Architects and Caruso St John Architects.
The project ‘Seacliff’ by Zurich-based Boltshauser Architekten was chosen by a jury including Swiss architect Roger Diener of Diener & Diener.
Zaha Hadid’s ‘Blue Cave’ came third out of 15 shortlisted entries, which also included Dutch firm MVRDV.
“All in all, the entries submitted were at an extremely high level and represented a wide range of interesting proposed solutions for the task and location at hand,” said jury member and Basel canton master builder Fritz Schumacher.
“However, the restrained architectural language chosen by the winning project ‘Seacliff’ was the best match for the public image cultivated by Basel Zoo. Under this proposal the above-ground building space on the Heuwaage site is smaller than for other competition entries, thus also offering the best solution from an urban development perspective.”
The jury said it also liked the winning project’s clay and trass lime façade and the optimal use of the available space.
Meanwhile, Hadid’s project was praised for its excellent quality from an architectural point of view, but was criticised for its thin visitor aisles and the jury felt the “dynamic” styling of the building’s interior would have been in competition with the aquariums.
The anonymous competition was organised by Basel Zoo. 55 teams of architects, aquarium designers and general planners submitted their applications. Of these 15 teams were then chosen to prepare a project proposal for the Ozeanium.
Construction costs for the project are expected to reach £54 million, with the scheme due for completion in 2019.
When it opens visitors will be able to see coral reefs, sharks, giant octopuses and luminous maringe organisms in the city centre.