The former silo in the Erlenmatt Quarter in Basel looks at visitors with large, round, friendly eyes, making it clear that coffee and cocoa are no longer stored here but instead this is a place where people come together. In the interior Harry Gugger Studio has created out of the silo’s cellular concrete structure unique spaces, reminiscent of Piranesi’s Carceri. The dramatic presentation of space is unmatched—and was only possible in the first place due to the daunting restrictions of the existing building, even though it never presented them as such.
Listening attentively to what an existing building has to say is the prerequisite for a good conversion that can extract added value from the building. In the ruins of the Italian Forte di Pozzacchio it was the significant stillness of the place which first came to resonate as the result of the development. A roofed grandstand that grows out of simple seating steps in the courtyard of the Vogesen schoolhouse in Basel turns the sports pitch into a public space.
Listening very carefully is even more important when a first-class architectural monument like the Kurtheater Baden is to be extended by 50 per cent. It is almost a miracle that the proportions of the building appear at first glance unchanged—because the balance has been preserved and because the newly built elements are so closely related to the existing building that even a trained eye is unable to find the joint be tween old and new. The smooth handling of routes and light has been almost imperceptibly continued to integrate the enlarged second foyer organically in the promenade architecturale.
Whether architectural monument or industrial building, memorial, hostel, or ice hockey temple: all the projects in this issue have one thing in common: the conversion has created added value for the public or has made the place accessible to the public for the first time. Despite this, however, when we visited the buildings due to corona they were deserted.
In the last few months there is perhaps nothing that we have missed more than free, often unplanned meetings with friends and strangers, the exchange of ideas and information in public space. It is high time for buildings like those presented here to fulfil their function once again by welcoming people. — Daniel Kurz, Jenny Keller