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Biozentrum moves into a 73 meter research tower

In 2019, the Biozentrum will get a new home – a tower of chrome steel and glass, radiating the charisma of modern urban development. It will house 600 researchers and 800 students. However, it is not only its height that characterizes this new building, costing 328 million Swiss francs. Also the modern infrastructure along with the many meeting zones promoting scientific exchange make it most attractive. 

On October 1st, 1971, the present Biozentrum, designed by the architect Martin H. Burckhardt, was opened. The building was a landmark in the city, symbolic for the innovative basic research at the University.  A new landmark – a 73 meter tower – will replace its predecessor in 2019. There are many reasons for this: The present building, around 40 years old, requires extensive renovations which cannot be carried out parallel to the Biozentrum’s operations. Furthermore, the way in which research is carried out today and the demands on the infrastructure have altered dramatically. And also, importantly, more lecture halls are needed.

Life Sciences Campus
The new Biozentrum is, however, only the first building block on the way to a Life Sciences Campus at the University of Basel. By 2029, in the immediate vicinity of the University Hospital, the Campus “Schällemätteli” will be further developed with buildings to accommodate the Departments of Biomedicine, Physics and Chemistry as well as the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) of the ETH Zurich. The concentration of the 40 sites, presently scattered throughout the city, will optimize co-operations in research and teaching, promote the exchange of ideas in the life sciences and support collaborations with industry and newly established businesses in the Basel region. For the University of Basel the life sciences is a major focus both in regard to its research activities and international recognition as well as to the areas of studies it offers. These provide well trained young scientists for the regional life sciences industry, the most important employer in the Basel region with a high growth rate and an added regional value of 20%.

New Building
28 teams participated in the architecture competition. Andreas Ilg and Marcel Santer from Zurich emerged as the winners. The tower will comprise of 19 floors – 16 above ground and three basement levels, providing a floor space of 23’400 m2 for 600 researchers and 800 students. 40% of the volume will lie below the ground. The Biozentrum tower will be surrounded by a large, freely accessible open space, providing seating, fountains and art interventions, creating a meeting place for the whole campus. Along with the Biozentrum, the new building will also be home to the URZ (University’s computer center), lecture halls and a public cafeteria. Ten of the floors will be available for research. Each offers space for four research groups. Adjacent floors will be joined through an open staircase and a meeting zone benefitting scientific exchange. The path of the scientists should also cross thanks to the technology platforms. These are distributed over all the floors, encouraging interdisciplinary and informal dialogue. The floor planning of the underground levels was highly complex:  They will house, among other things, a number of very sensitive scientific installations, such as the Center for Cell Imaging and Nano Analytics (C-CINA) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Construction work
For the University of Basel as well as the awarding authorities – the financing cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft – the new Biozentrum, with a cost of 328 million Swiss francs, is one of the largest building projects in their history. The building work began in August, 2013. By May 2014, the huge, 12 meter deep construction pit was excavated and prepared for the building to begin. By August 2016, the shell structure and the facade were constructed. After completion of the interior work in 2018 all the operations of the building will be tested. The relocation of the Biozentrum is planned for 2019.