PWP Landscape Architecture

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Novartis Headquarters, Forum 1 Courtyard


Basel, Switzerland

Completion Date



Novartis Pharma AG


>Parks >Campuses >Civic Landscapes >Featured

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The Novartis “Campus of Innovation, Knowledge, Encounter” will eventually boast more than twenty-five new buildings by such world-famous architects as Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Yoshio Taniguchi, and Renzo Piano. However, the pre-war administration building, which contains the offices of the president and the worldwide corporate management group, has been remodeled and saved, and the central open court of the building has been accordingly redesigned in a modern manner.

The courtyard, which can be seen from the piano nobile and the floors above, provides a venue for casual meetings, executive lunches, cocktail parties, and such outdoor occasions as awards programs. A long, shallow reflection pool is surrounded with 235 Himalayan birch (Betula utilis), planted in increasing density from the courtyard walls toward the pool. The birch grove is paved with crushed, decomposed granite and furnished with elegant stainless steel café furniture.

At the south end of the court, a circle of clipped European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) forms a lawn space that looks down the birch-lined pool. A white marble path in the form of a cross, reminiscent of both Switzerland and the pharmaceutical products of Novartis, joins the door of the executive wing of the headquarters building to the courtyard and the underpass leading to the surrounding campus. A bronze sculpture by Alicia Penalba stands just beyond the center of the white cross.

The birch will gradually grow to nearly the height of the building, screening its walls from the court and in the spring, summer, and fall visually separating the employees in the court from the offices above. The weaker trees will be thinned out as the birches grow upward toward the light and the slender stems become the trunks of mature trees. The circular hedge will be kept pruned at a height of eight to ten meters so that its leaves seem to hang above the lawn and frame the sky.