NW – Visit to the Roche Tower, 4 June 2016

It dominates the skyline and can be seen from far away and in all directions around the city of Basel. Bau 1 – what a banal name for such a striking building, 41 floors leading to a height of 178 metres! I couldn’t wait to see what was inside this intriguing building and so I signed up to visit it with our group of BRA members. Our first impression was of space and light when we entered the reception area. Our next impression was, are we waiting to take flight? The security for a purely administrative building was, I thought, rather excessive – identity cards taken away, handbags and jackets screened and afterwards a body search. Were they afraid we would blow up this earthquake protected building or make off with a laptop or two?

Our next view was from the 38th floor having ascended in three different lifts, six metres per second. I was surprised that we were not forced backwards like astronauts but the ride was faultless and almost silent. Apparently, the lifts are also intelligent – they can deliver the staff to their correct working area when they insert their card into a lidded box on the side of the lift. The views from this floor were amazing as you can walk all around the terrazzo floor or sit on the white leather sofas and relax. From the south we overlooked some nineteenth century houses dating back to 1896 when Roche was founded. In 2009 space was made for the tower by demolishing existing buildings and in 2012 the foundations were dug 30 metres down into the earth. The pebbles that were thus removed were utilised to make the floor of the Pebble Lounge. 12’000 tons of steel and 55’000 tons of concrete were used in this earthquake proof erection containing ten thousand lamps and 650 three-layered windows trapping hot or cold air between the panes. Heat is brought in and utilised in heating. Thus the construction saves energy.

Although we seemed to be at the top of the building, there were three storeys above us which are used to store all the technical stuff regarding heating and so on. There is also automatic closure of blinds should a flock of birds be seen approaching, doors to terraces are automatically shut in strong winds. The lamps hanging from the ceiling, like upside down blooms on long stems, are fixed so that they don’t sway should there be an earthquake. There also seems to be a system for cleaning the 2’650 windows. Who would appreciate hanging outside on the 37th floor say with a bucket and window leather? Phew!

Down then to the 24th floor and an innovation – a vertical communication area. Floor 24 is connected to floors 25 and 26 through a spiral staircase and large, high open spaces so one can communicate on three levels at the same time. There are nine more similar zones to the one we saw equipped with coffee bars, five to the east and five to the west. Informal meetings, promotions, celebrations and discussions can take place here in comfort. There is also a special ceiling to absorb noise! We had a peep at one of the standardised office areas. These consist of modules that can be combined, connected, separated in different ways to accommodate the staff’s needs. The temperature and blinds can also be adapted to each person’s preference.

Next came the 4th floor where the Terrazza Cafe can seat 150 people and a restaurant with room for 350. About a thousand meals cooked on the premises are served there every day. This reminded us that it was high time to relax and have a drink ourselves, so we made our way to the Tinguely Museum, (also owned by Roche) for some much needed refreshment. Our thanks go to Angela for arranging such an interesting tour and to the friendly staff at Roche who made us all very welcome.

Valerie Walder