kHaus

FOCKETYN DEL RIO STUDIO as Architects

All under one roof: FOCKETYN DEL RIO STUDIO COMPLETES THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE kHaus IN BASEL
The transformation of a pre-existing building into a new cultural center has become a model for circular architecture and re-use: built 150 years ago as a military barracks, this seminal building has just become a new public nexus in the heart of Basel. In 2013, Miquel del Rio and Hans Focketyn won the international competition to reconceptualize the existing Basel Barracks main building, creating a cultural beacon that, after an eight-year transformation process, is now open to the public, the city, and the future.
Historical Framework

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

150 years ago, the Swiss army built a military barracks complex in the middle of the city, forming an enclosed area that excluded the general public. The site was consequently abandoned in 1966. Over the following decades, its vast buildings and a large open area became organically embedded in Basel as a cherished social and cultural hub called “Kaserne area”, being “Kaserne” the German word for “barracks”. This civic and communal pollination process turned the area into a popular locale for cultural, religious, and collective expression. It hosts several cultural facilities, multifunctional music and event spaces, and several restaurants and bars, all adjacent to a large public park. However, the most prominent building of the complex never went through this evolution. Located at the far end of the site and blocking access to the river Rhein, it bypassed this social transformation, despite being the primary structure in the compound. Given its central location in Basel, the city launched an international competition in 2013 to renew the 9.000 m2 building, now rebranded as kHaus. The winning design was presented by Hans Focketyn and Miquel del Río of FOCKETYN DEL RIO STUDIO.

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Current Exterior
The new and updated kHaus provides the city of Basel with a contemporary and multifunctional cultural facility and new public areas in a historic and central location. The conversion unites two of the most iconic public spaces in Basel: the river and the Kaserne courtyard, which are now linked for the first time and publicly accessible on both sides. This new urban hub facilitates connections on a city-wide scale, creating a new gathering place for the community, animated by multiple activities.

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

At the south end of the courtyard, a classical arch with a concrete frame was carved out to serve as a new opening. Along with two additional passages on the periphery of the structure, these corridors provide permanent public access to the river throughout the year. Now, the building can be traversed via various paths at any time of the day.

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Retaining the building’s original composition and spatial logic, FDRS turned the kHaus into an open and porous social center for many activities at the riverfront. Referencing the building and the site's history, the architects subtly reconfigured its exterior while keeping its character intact. Its facade was gently altered by enlarging all of the ground floor windows into doors, converting the building into an open and accessible structure, filled with life and the echoes of many different languages.

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Hans Focketyn and Miquel del Rio: "Our intervention at the Kaserne’s main building fulfills the site's potential by opening it up to the river; the building itself invited us to do what we're doing. We're not trying to attract attention. We're convinced: now that the transformation is complete, it will be hard to imagine the Kaserne in any other configuration. Our work is done: We prepared it for its next life."

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Current Interior
The core of the building is the Plaza: an extensive, indoor public space which is located between the two facades, the river, and the courtyard. Over thirteen meters in height, it hosts activities year-round. Conceived as the primary public access to the building, the Plaza is intended for everyone: a place to go on wet winter days or hot summer afternoons. A sculptural stairway connects the courtyard down to the river.

photo_credit Piotr Hraptovich
Piotr Hraptovich

The interior of the kHaus is defined by plurality and versatility: In its center is the public Plaza, and directly above is an events and performance space. Spread throughout the upper five floors are art and rehearsal studios, a matrix of multifunctional rooms, restaurants, dining areas, and spaces for worship, all linked by the central Plaza and three vertical stairways.

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

More generally, the kHaus and its programmatic complexity can be understood as an assemblage of disparate uses, each with its own particular translation into space, materials, and techniques: all under one roof. Confronted with this disparity, the architects combined different areas into a cohesive whole – each with its own character, colors, and sounds, based on the dual logic of allowing each part to develop its distinct potential while maintaining a coherent ensemble.

photo_credit Piotr Hraptovich
Piotr Hraptovich

Retaining its structural elements and adapting them to the various uses of a building for the twenty-first century, the architects discreetly revolutionized the Kaserne main building to allow for functionality and flexibility, making it further adaptable and ready for the future through the means of a "poly-typology" of rooms. Rooms can become corridors, and corridors can become rooms, increasing the interior’s scalability and flexibility. Open circulation becomes ubiquitous and is channeled through two vertical stairways.

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Future Manifestations
A building that used to be a barrier is now open and accessible. The 45 million Swiss Franc transformation is Basel's first publicly funded investment of a large-scale cultural facility in the Kleinbasel district. It is a now a 9.000 m2 magnet for the city and a beacon of its inclusive and multicultural orientation. The new Kaserne has achieved everything it set out to do: it forges new connections, animates both facades, links the river to the courtyard, and, thanks to the various spaces in the building, is flexible enough to accommodate many uses. For now, it is a cultural center, but who knows what it will become. The Kaserne area has lived a hundred lives in the past and its main building will continue to reincarnate in the future.

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Hans Focketyn: "With the transformation of the Kaserne’s main building, we have revealed the project’s potential to establish a strong and clearly defined architectural expression. Something balanced, coherent, and new has been created here with reference to the original fabric. This is how the identity of a place, the substance of a city, and the spirit of a building take shape. From history, the new arises – and culture emerges."

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Miquel del Rio: "We see the kHaus as a cultural machine; a palace of fun that's constantly producing content and reviving the city in different ways at different times of the year. We're delighted that our refurbishment of the Kaserne has turned an obsolete building into an accessible public building--a place for people to come together and create a new dynamic for the city of Basel. We see it as an example socially and energetically architectural sustainability"

photo_credit Piotr Hraptovich
Piotr Hraptovich

Architects: Focketyn del Rio Studio GmbH, Basel, Miquel del Rio + Hans Focketyn

photo_credit Adrià Goula
Adrià Goula

Team: Letizia Fürer, Anna Kuhli, Alastair Lock, Aljoscha Lanz, Angela Brasanac,

Christina Fernandez, Dalila Godbahne, Carolina Osorio, Francessco Maria di

Giusepp, Hajdin, Draguscha, Iris Carratala, Jaime Pesio Suso, Jonathan Bürgel,

Felipe Bermudez Murillo, Joshua Thomson, Juan Pablo Gallego, Juan Pablo Pineda

Vergara, Manuela Navarro, Marco Bamberger, Marco Lenherr, Marion Cruz, Pierre

Marmy, Raphael Rattier, Santiago Martinez, Tomas Eduardo Echeverri, Montoya,

Tomas Guerra, Vida Amani, Xavier Uriach, Xenia Heid.

Caption

Planing team:

Generalplaner: Arge Kaserne Hauptbau ( Focketyn del Rio Studio GmbH + Caretta

Weidmann Baumanagement AG, Basel + Schnetzer Puskas Ingenieure AG)

Site supervision: Caretta Weidmann Baumanagement AG, Basel

Structure: Schnetzer Puskas Ingenieure AG

Building energy: Ehrsam Beurret Partner AG, Pratteln

Fire regulations: af-brandschutz

Heating: Ingenieurbüro Stefan Graf, Basel

Ventilation: Treuthardt Haustech, Binningen

Plumbing: Unico Gebäudetechnik AG, Basel + Suiselectra Ingenieurunternehmen

AG, Basel Electrical systems: Hefti Hess Martignoni, Aarau

Acoustics: applied acoustics GmbH, Gelterkinden

Stage design: Ducks Scéno, Paris + Wibbeke & Penders GmbH, Berlin

Photographers: Adria Goula & Piotr Hraptovich

Caption
Caption
Caption
Project Credits
Product Spec Sheet

Featured Projects
Latest Products
News
Nature, character, and transparency form create a harmonic balance that characterizes this latest house by the Garcés de Seta Bonet
4 Aug 2022 News
Nature, character, and transparency form create a harmonic balance that characterizes this latest house by the Garcés de Seta Bonet

Surrounded by nature and with a broad view over Catalonia's Costa Brava landscape, Garcés de... More

Les Grandes Terres reconstruction and extension project brings a sophisticated urbanity to its Paris neighbourhood
4 Aug 2022 News
Les Grandes Terres reconstruction and extension project brings a sophisticated urbanity to its Paris neighbourhood

Adding to the urbanity of a Paris neighbourhood, this project by Hesters-Oyon Architectes involves t... More

BLAF architecten experiment through their dynamic House hkZ design with the essential components of the single-family home
4 Aug 2022 News
BLAF architecten experiment through their dynamic House hkZ design with the essential components of the single-family home

Belgian practice BLAF architecten is known for exploring complex housing sustainability, affordabili... More

Sculptural, flower-shaped Holland Casino Venlo by MVSA Architects displays a colourful, interactive facade
4 Aug 2022 News
Sculptural, flower-shaped Holland Casino Venlo by MVSA Architects displays a colourful, interactive facade

Located close to the German border, Holland Casino Venlo is a flower-shaped, sculptural building by... More

Seichii Yamada & Associates reimagine the traditional Japanese house in a striking silver façade
3 Aug 2022 News
Seichii Yamada & Associates reimagine the traditional Japanese house in a striking silver façade

Located in Shizuoka city in Japan, House in Nishichiyoda designed by Seichii Yamada & Associates... More

Sigurd Larsen designs a black timber-clad cabin that resonates with Nature
3 Aug 2022 News
Sigurd Larsen designs a black timber-clad cabin that resonates with Nature

Danish Architect Sigurd Larsen designs a tiny cabin retreat in collaboration with Berlin-based hospi... More

Making infrastructure do more: MVRDV and StudioPOD complete One Green Mile in Mumbai
3 Aug 2022 News
Making infrastructure do more: MVRDV and StudioPOD complete One Green Mile in Mumbai

Recently completed in Mumbai, the One Green Mile project by MVRD and StudioPOD transforms a series o... More

John McAslan + Partners take a ‘Fabric First’ approach to the renovation and enhancement of Glasgow’s celebrated Burrell Collection building
3 Aug 2022 News
John McAslan + Partners take a ‘Fabric First’ approach to the renovation and enhancement of Glasgow’s celebrated Burrell Collection building

Glasgow’s Burrell Collection includes 9,000 works of fine and decorative arts spanning 600 yea... More