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Swiss National Museum by Christ & Gantenbein Architects, Zurich, Switzerland

A subtle, contemporary renovation for the Swiss National Museum’s Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame). Photography by Schweizerische Landesmuseen

Designed in 1898 by Gustav Gull, the Swiss National Museum tracks the development of Swiss culture from prehistory to the 20th century. Gull’s original building is modelled on an ornate French chateau and by 2013, it will be joined by a new extension by Emanuel Christ and Christoph Gantenbein. The pair won a competition in 2002 for the overall renovation, just four years after setting up their studio in Basel.

An initial phase of this programme is premiated here. It covers renovation work to the original building and the redesign of the permanent collection. Specifically, it involves replacing the vaulted slab between the ground floor and the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) above.

Matching the arched geometry of the existing slab, but recognisable as a subtle, contemporary intervention, a new concrete ceiling replaces the former construction. Delicately etched across the concrete, the striations of its formwork reinforce the taut, curved forms of the vaults.

To improve fire protection, a new emergency staircase was installed, together with new fire protection doors made of oak. Their surface is crimped in the pattern of a repeating thistle blossom, which was transmitted to a 3D model and then transcribed by a CNC milling machine.

The jury admired the elegant, understated way in which the new parts dovetailed with old, and how technology was intelligently harnessed to produce decorative effects that added to the richness of the historic architecture.

Architect Christ & Gantenbein, Basel, Switzerland
Structural engineer APT Ingenieure

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