The exhibition ‘Dichtelust – Forms of Urban Coexistence in Switzerland’, which the S AM Swiss Architecture Museum has developed with the support of the Canton Basel-City Construction and Transport Department, refutes these irrational arguments and demonstrates the real meaning of density: the thoughtful and compact utilisation of buildable territory. It examines different forms of historical density and contemporary redensification, and clarifies how density contributes to quality of life by creating tangible added value for the individual, for society and for the environment.
“Dichtelust – Forms of Urban Coexistence in Switzerland”
November 24, 2018 – May 5, 2019
S AM Swiss Architecture Museum
Steinenberg 7, 4001 Basel
To explore the topic in more depth, the S AM will be holding various events. For example, ETH CASE will discuss the concept of the ‘10-minute neighbourhood’ (6/12/2018), the Canton Basel-City Construction and Transport Department will be shedding light on large-scale site developments in Basel in a series of lunchtime events (31/1, 21/2, 21/3, 4/4/2019) and, together with architect Lukas Gruntz, Matias Echanove from urbz will look into densification as a collective process in a lecture (28/3/2019). The publication ‘Dichtelust – Formen des urbanen Zusammenlebens in der Schweiz’ (in German) will be published with the Christoph Merian Verlag to accompany the exhibition.
From the 24th of November 2018 to the 5th of May 2019, the S AM Swiss Architecture Museum presents the exhibition ‘Dichtelust – Forms of Urban Coexistence in Switzerland’, realised with the support of the Canton Basel-City Construction and Transport Department. This exhibition conveys how density contributes to the quality of life in a city – in other words, how compact planning and construction creates added value for the individual, for society and for the environment. Here, visitors to the exhibition are guided through the museum’s rooms from prejudice against density towards its possibilities.
FROM PROXIMITY STRESS TO A LUST FOR DENSITY
The exhibition first addresses the misnomer ‘proximity stress’, then examines how this term (fuelled by the tabloid press and populist politics) has managed to become part of everyday Swiss vocabulary. The prejudices against density need to be explained. To this end, the first room of the exhibition looks at the question of how density is defined. However, it also shows that quantitative measurements (such as the floor area ratio, which is the ratio of the total floor area to the site area) are insufficient when it comes to describing the qualities of density. Equal densities (or floor area ratios) can describe different atmospheres. The focus is thus shifted from quantitative criteria to the qualitative potential of density.
DENSITY ON DISPLAY: 25 POSITIONS ON DENSITY
For the museum’s large hall, 25 architectural offices were contacted and asked to submit projects in which density creates added value. Applied well, density can be beneficial for everyone involved: For instance, it reduces the need for resources and prevents one-sided utilisation (e.g. solely commercial or residential) as well as commuting and the motorised private transport associated with it. Dense, mixed- use programming, in which quantitative and qualitative criteria of density are well combined, can promote interaction, diversity and efficiency. Various best- practice examples reveal the possibilities of such an architecture: They strive for high occupancy, but also show how open spaces balance out the built-up area.
“Basel density’: the transformation sites and their link to historical density The third and fourth exhibition rooms are devoted to ‘Basel density’. With the support of the Canton Basel-City Construction and Transport Department, they show how Basel is densifying today. Here, there is great potential for development through densifying and optimising the city’s underused industrial sites – valuable reserves that can become a new part of the urban space. The planning and communication for these projects, including successfully involving citizens in their design, present major challenges because the rising density in the city often arouses fears among the population. This contrasts with the positive perception of Basel’s historical density and densification, as demonstrated in the exhibition with the aid of historical paintings. The closely built baroque townhouses and narrow alleys in the mediaeval town centre show how density in the historical context was, and continues to be, experienced positively.
The large-scale developments in Basel presented in these two rooms differ greatly in their goals. However, they all aim to translate higher density into qualities that make living together appealing again, much like their historical predecessors.
Basel city model and looking into the future of Basel’s urban development Finally, a large-scale wall drawing by the illustrators 3rei5ünf6echs shows the city of Basel with its planned site developments. On top of this, another feature is to be added to the S AM during the exhibition: the Basel city model on the ground floor of the Canton Basel-City Construction and Transport Department at Dufourstrasse 40 in Basel. When the exhibition ends, the panorama by 3rei5ünf6echs will be moved into the same room, where, together with the city model, it will provide a glimpse into the future of Basel’s urban development.