Basel, Switzerland, 2018

Nets for an elephant

Meret Oppenheim Hochhaus

Transparent balcony railing out of Webnet Frames.

It is an unmissable new building in Basel: the Meret Oppenheim Tower right behind the main station. The balcony railings out of Webnet Frames are central to the facade design, that plays with different degrees of transparency.With its 85 metres, the building, which is dedicated to the Swiss surrealist, towers the other buildings in the neighbourhood. Not only its sheer size and the architecture of stacked cubes sparked a heated controversy. Also the facade design was part of the debate: the tower is wrapped with foldable aluminium panels that serve as blinds for the apartments. When all shutters are closed, the building has a dark grey skin which earned it a description as ‘elephant like’. When the blinds are opened, however, bright spots break the monolithic grey facade structure.

Architects Herzog & de Meuron had intended a play with lights, shadow and shifting degrees of transparency. For this to work, virtually translucent balcony railings were vital, which had also to be safe. That is why all balconies and terraces of the 25 stories have been secured with Webnet Frames, which are hidden behind the aluminium facade.

The optical effect of the stainless steel mesh by Jakob Rope Systems matches perfectly with the look of the aluminium panels. The high translucency of the mesh allows the balconies to give more depth to the facade structure and reduce the monolithic effect of the tower. For the inhabitants, the Webnet Frames provide security and an unhindered view on Basel and its surroundings.