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Ricola Herb Centre in Switzerland by Herzog and de Meuron with Martin Rauch

Rauch developed a semi-automatic method of rammed-earth fabrication for a building previously considered too large for the material

This case study is part of a longer retrospective on Martin Rauch – click here to read the full piece

Ricola Herb Centre is one of several buildings Herzog & de Meuron have produced for the Swiss herbal sweet manufacturer. Appearing as a monolith among flowering meadows, as if it were itself a monumental single earthen block, the industrial facility was designed to cater for the processing of herbs in-house, on one site. Generously sized interiors accommodate the space required for the movement of vast industrial material and machines, and the elongated rectangular form hints at a linearity that might describe the production process – drying, cutting, blending, storing herbs – that is central to the work of Ricola. At 11 metres high, 111  metres long and 29 metres wide, it has an obvious presence amid the open fields, and the bulkiness of the earthen walls is exaggerated by the short protruding strip of wrinkled roof.

The intelligent positioning of openings is crucial in rammed-earth construction, and circular apertures that punctuate each wall have a substantial 5-metre radius that differs from the conventional language of earth buildings. The scale of the building demanded a construction process more efficient than the creation of labour-intensive formwork, and the semi-automatic method of fabrication Rauch developed made it possible to assemble 666 stackable blocks of rammed earth within five months. Clay has been extracted from the area surrounding Laufen for thousands of years, and the properties of the material are well suited to the specific humidity and temperature the herb production requires. The sand, clay and gravel used in the walls was sourced from local quarries within an 8 to 10 kilometre radius, tying the building to the landscape on which it is built.

Ricola herb centre detail herzog de meuron martin rauch

Ricola herb centre detail herzog de meuron martin rauch

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Lead image: Benedikt Redmann

This case study is part of a longer retrospective on Martin Rauch – click here to read the full piece