AFTER THE PARTY – A New Open Fair [M2]

How can the empty spaces left over by a globally receding exhibition industry be converted and opened to the surrounding city without blocking new models for exhibition and trade in the future? This studio project deals with the general imminent architectural transformation of huge areas around the world, and specifically with the ongoing development of Basel, Switzerland.

Since 1921 Messe Basel, home of globally renowned events such as Art Basel and the watch and jewelry fair Baselworld, has been a dominant feature in the city center. A series of large-scale, privately owned buildings and exhibition halls are grouped around a public exhibition square; a cluster that has been built and rebuilt over the last 99 years. The most recent addition in 2013 by Herzog & de Meuron.

In recent years, however, the fairground and the exhibition business as a whole have experienced a steady decline, now rapidly aggravated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. As fewer exhibition days will be put on in the future, this 120,000-square-meter mostly public area in the middle of the city risks becoming permanently empty. This studio will thus work on the peripheral transformation of an inner-city environment defined in the last century by hundreds of thousands of international visitors and halls filled to the brim with exhibitions and other events.

While the fairs may be shrinking, the city of Basel is experiencing a rapid population growth. In light of this situation, its already low residential vacancy rate coupled with a foreseeable increase in the rental prices is likely to become a social threat for both Basel?s inhabitants and newcomers. In order to deal with this situation, the municipality implemented several inner-city densification strategies.

The students will be asked to design a housing block prototype on the site of the current exhibition Hall 3. The project should be challenging the idea of big mono-functional areas and explore the potential of a flexible and cross-functional urban block. All projects should be able to confront the uncertain future of the fair, while exploring new trajectories for the transformation of the area and its users.

The students works will contribute to the ongoing discussion about the site?s future use, since the city of Basel has recently bought two halls (including Hall 3) from the privately owned holding company. The question will be how to add new programs to the remnants of Messe Basel, an institution which is about to change drastically, but will remain a significant economic and urban factor in Basel and Switzerland.

The studio will be held via Zoom and Miro meetings. Simon Frommenwiler, Simon Hartmann and Tilo Herlach will be available Tuesday 02:00 PM – 06:00 PM and Thursday 02:00 PM – 06:00 PM ET. Tuesdays will be used for group pin-ups and input lectures and Thursdays for
individual crits.

The instructors will also be available to account for missed time upon request.

At the beginning of the course, students will be provided with research about the context as well as a short movie and video walks to grasp the characteristics of the site as fast as possible. Moreover, along with the normal studio schedule with the instructors, the students will have the possibility to meet and exchange with key players such as representatives both from Messe and Basel's municipality.


GSD students may view additional information on option studios:

Option Studio Presentations

Schedule for Zoom Q&A sessions