E.Actually, everything is too late here: motorway slip roads pile up on several levels, behind them freight trains groan into Basel – this is not the Switzerland of postcards, but the placeless no man’s land of the modern metropolises, which JG Ballard describes in his grandiose novel “Betoninsel”. Here, you think, if you park under the motorway bridge at the old area of the Erlenmatt Ost freight yard, you don’t live here, you are stranded here. At least that’s how it was so far. For some years now, the Habitat Foundation and the architects it has commissioned have achieved something improbable; they have wrested a new residential area from the fallow land, where the most beautiful building was an old silo designed by Rudolf Sandreuter in 1912.
It all started with a sculptural building by the architects Galli & Rudolf, who erected a residential and commercial building with apartments for the elderly, assisted living groups, workshop and common rooms as well as a day-care center as the first component of a habitable noise protection wall. The simple, but sculptural and noble-looking wall of this building made of reddish colored raw concrete and glass blocks pierced by ornamental shapes was in itself a setting that gives the Basel outskirts an almost Latin American modern elegance. Even more remarkable is the building that the young Zurich-based office Duplex Architects has placed on the edge of the motorway and maze of tracks: a “student house”, as student dormitories are now called, for around a hundred residents, with commercial space on the ground floor.