Swiss Public Record Office – Basel, by EM2N

Architecture & Interiors

Switzerland’s Public Record Office new building is a small gem of architectural triumph. Located at Liestal, the capital of the Basel – Landschaft Canton, 17 Km south of Basel, it was designed by  the EM2N office, Mathias  Mueller and  Daniel Niggli, architects.


The difficult topography was a deciding factor: a
narrow lot at a place from where
the city cannot be seen. The surroundings consist of small
buildings and houses which make up the context in which
the old Public Record building stands. An “urban”
place that is neither public nor private. What changed it? A competition
organised in 2000 by the Office for Building
Construction Canton Basel-Landschaft for the spatial
doubling of this building, won by EM2N.


There was an option to widen horizontally. Despite that, the winning proposal called
for an around-and-up concept of growth. The existing
building is embraced by an L-shaped construction on
top of which a glass & metal structure creates a new level.
The lower levels contain the depository and rooms for
technical purposes. The upper floor is used for
public consultancy.


The new addition has two
distinct entrances: one for documents and one for the public. Documents to be archived enter from the longer side of the
base. The public enters
from the side facing the rail road lines.


When the visitor enters, he can observe an unusual texture that takes the full double height: what is this made of? It instantly reminds one of Semper’s thoughts
on the textile origin of walls. The space is inhabited
by a spiraling staircase. It was made in a single piece and positioned by
literally screwing it from above onto an opening in the
floor. An intriguing form, seemingly both anchored and
levitating at the same time.


The base of the
building is covered by climbing
plants, intented  to form a green plinth whose
extraordinary character is a sublimation of the
surrounding suburban flora. The encounter between
people and documents occurs on the top floor. From
this glazed crown, which is also transparent in its
interior partitioning, there is once again a view of the
city on the other side of the rail road. And so the Public
Record building finally inhabits comfortably its location.



Name: Public Record Office
Canton Basel – Landschaft
Time: 11/2000 – 08/2006
Location: Liestal
Client: Canton Basel – Landschaft
Year: 2000
Type: public
competition 1st prize
under construction
Otto + Partner ag
ct bauberatung+bauökonomie AG
walt+galmarini bauingenieure AG

A close-up view of the entrance wall texture:


And another interior view (the public consultancy space):



By |


  1. Rosiebinns

    Jul 15, 2010 at 2:15 am

    I think nobody can be brief as like your pos
    It’s a very good post.
    Public records

  2. Pingback: From One Level to Another « The ALZ blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *