Il Piccolo Blog

Herzog & De Meuron, excellence made in Switzerland

Herzog & De Meuron, two names, two architects, two artists, probably the most famous architectural firm in the world. It was founded by Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron, two architects whose genius and shared vision of architecture and the way they conceive buildings and structures are also united by their year of birth, 1950.

The Herzog & De Meuron studio is located in Basel, which makes it Swiss excellence (they both are) in the field of architecture, and was founded in 1978. They graduated three years earlier, Jacques Herzog from ETH Zurich and Pierre De Meuron from Haward.

From the Allianz Arena to museums, the works of Herzog and De Meuron

Since then Herzog and De Meuron have worked on legendary projects, including the Allianz Arena, the stadium in Munich with a huge underground car park and a façade roof made of recyclable material, and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. What made them famous to the general public was the conversion of the Bankside power station in London into the Tate Modern. In short, Herzog and De Meuron’s works are all of great calibre and of different types, even though their architectural philosophy is the common thread linking buildings and structures which are very different from one another, especially in terms of their functions. Herzog and De Meuron are even considered masters of museum design: they have designed many of the world’s most prestigious museums, from the Goetz Collection in Munich to the Tate Modern in London; from the Museu Blau in Barcelona to the Unterlinden museum in Colmar.

In 2001, therefore before the Allianz Arena project, Herzog and De Meuron were awarded the Pritzker Prize, a sort of Nobel Prize for architecture, followed by the RIBA Royal Gold Medal and the Praemium Imperiale in Japan. Their first work in chronological terms, the Blue House in Oberwil, already shows what will be their hallmark. They deliberately gave the building a sense of fragility, with a construction joint on the street façade, whose precast concrete window opening is eccentrically positioned. Herzog and De Meuron opted for a loggia-like balcony open to the garden, with a filigree, curved metal staircase leading to the attic. It is easy to see how Herzog and De Meuron’s architecture is ingenious and unusual, combining references to specific architectural cultures and innovations. For example, the theme of the enclosed garden seen in the Blue House will be taken up by the two architects in other works.

Herzog and De Meuron, innovation and an eye on the tradition of Central Europe

Herzog and De Meuron’s style is innovative and unique but at the same time winks at the Central European tradition. The outer shell often plays a key role in their buildings, an element from which they often determine their forms. It is separated from the cubature of the buildings, the surfaces of which are used for certain autonomous messages. Examples of this are the eucalyptus leaves printed on the facades of the Ricola Pavilion in Mulhouse or silk-screen prints on glass and concrete in the Library of the Technical School in Eberswalde.

At least in the initial phase Herzog and De Meuron were inspired by Donald Judd’s minimalism, then everything evolved towards a unique and distinctive style. A great deal of attention is paid to detail, materials and textures in an almost maniacal way.

With the parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami, Herzog and De Meuron have also revolutionised the concept of the garage. Their work, like all others, is embedded in the environment and has a strong impact on the design of the area, on the borderline between archaeology and art.

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