Sanaa Building - Novartis Campus, Basel

Exact Landscape

Novartis Pharma AG
Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa, Tokyo
2005 - 2007
800 m²
A slender, six-storey building at the entrance of Novartis grounds, Sanaa building is distinguished by its extreme transparency. The view from the narrow courtyard passes right through the glass-building into the lush, lively Campus Park.
And just like the architecture, the design of the courtyard is restricted to minimal interventions. It is characterized by two elements: Sandstone from Lake Constance and clean cooling water from the produciton processes of Novartis. The greenish sandstone slabs are placed in the courtyard according to a strict grid refering to the facade.

The design combines slabs of different thickness to form not an uniform plane but an irregular checkerboard patten. With the entire yard being filled with water, certain slabs lie above water level and remain dry, whereas others are barely covered or clearly covered by water. This way the different heights manifest a subtle play of colours: Depending on their level in the water the stones appear lighter or darker, while the dry slabs on the highest level seem to shape the idea of a path through the water-yard. The chosen stone, sandstone from Rohrschach at Lake Constance, has devoloped by sedimentation in the shallow molasse-sea that covered the entire area around Lake Constance about 20 Million Years ago.

The design of the yard refers to this process in an abstract way: A petrified miocene sandy beach was cut into blocks, rebuilt and flooded. With the water being cooling water it is is slightly tempered. Thus, when air temperature sinks in Winter, fog fills the courtyard. For a short while, the yard becomes a spatial volume within the transparent building - and part of an abstract rhine-landscape consisting of water, stone and fog, framed by green space at its edges.