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Entrance Pavillon in Basel

During the restructuring of the Novartis grounds at its headquarters in Basel, attention was also given to the entrance zone. This glass entrance pavilion boasts a curved yet restrained roof, an extravagant range of materials, and an audacious structural concept. Cantilevering substantially to the south and west, the roof rests – without support from additional steel beams or columns – directly on the ­facade’s structural glazing and appears to float above the glass cube. In order to achieve this effect the lightweight, monolithic roof element was fabricated of PUR foam and glass-fibre-reinforced plastic; it serves simultaneously as form, structure and thermal skin. The cross-section – reminiscent of an aerofoil – is tapered from 62 cm in the middle to 7 cm on the edges; the varying thicknesses of the PUR foam and special laminating techniques correspond to the structural requirements. The 400 m2 component was constructed in a checkerboard pattern, with 90 ; 90 cm blocks of PUR foam as basic unit. The solid blocks were wrapped incrementally – by hand – in multiple layers of glass-fibre-reinforced plastic (polyester resin with glass-fibre textile) and successively combined into four 5.6 ; 18.5 m modules which were glued together on the construction site and then laminated in order to obtain a seamless, homo­geneous surface.

The roof, which weighs twenty-eight tons, is connected to the facade via slide bearings and steel strips. The bearing points were preassembled in the workshop: multi-wall GRP (glass-reinforced plastic) sheets and inserted steel strips were inserted in the PUR roof. The facade consists of double-glazed panels which are buttressed with vertical glass fins and bonded with structural silicone sealant. At their lower edge the glass panels are held in place by stainless-steel rails (as are the fins top and bottom) which, concealed in the roof and floor, distribute the loads. Barely visible vertical, steel tensile members running between the glass fins ­secure the roof at the base and resist suction stemming from wind loads. At bottom the bars are mounted with stainless-steel springs in order to compensate for expansion. At night the recessed ­linear spotlights on the ground along the facade – visible from afar and effectively marking the entrance to the Novartis campus – create the impression that the roof is a glowing, ­floating volume. The pavilion’s floor and the walls in the stairway to the underground ­parking garage are clad in Giallo di Sienna, a lively yellow marble which provides a striking, sensuous contrast to the otherwise achromatic ­surfaces.

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