boltshauser architekten beats zaha hadid + MVRDV to design basel aquarium
boltshauser architekten beats zaha hadid + MVRDV to design basel aquarium boltshauser architekten beats zaha hadid + MVRDV to design basel aquarium
dec 13, 2012

boltshauser architekten beats zaha hadid + MVRDV to design basel aquarium

‘seacliff’ by boltshauser architekten winning proposal for the basel zoo ozeaniumimage courtesy of boltshauser architekten


boltshauser architekten of switzerland has won the bid to design the basel zoo aquarium, beating out prominent architects such as bernard tschumi, david chipperfield, MVRDV and zaha hadid. their ‘seacliff’ proposal for the ozeanium was selected for its understated architecture and compact above-ground building space, as well as its clay and trass lime façade.

‘all in all, the entries submitted were at an extremely high level and represented a wide range of interesting proposed solutions for the task and location at hand‘, explained jury member and basel canton master builder fritz schumacher. ‘however, the restrained architectural language chosen by the winning project ‘seacliff’ was the best match for the public image cultivated by basel zoo. under this proposal the above-ground building space on the heuwaage site is smaller than for other competition entries, thus also offering the best solution from an urban development perspective.’


boltshauser architektenn basel zoo aquarium‘seacliff’ aquarium tunnelimage courtesy of boltshauser architekten

boltshauser architektenn basel zoo aquariumimage courtesy of boltshauser architekten

image courtesy of boltshauser architekten

boltshauser architektenn basel zoo aquariumsite model of ‘seacliff’ in the context of its zurich locationimage courtesy of boltshauser architekten

boltshauser architektenn basel zoo aquarium‘seacliff’ model detailimage courtesy of boltshauser architekten

second place: ‘watergate’ by HHF architekten GmbH / burckhardt + partner AGimages courtesy of HHF architekten GmbH / burckhardt + partner AG




organized entirely above-ground, HHF architekten + burckhardt partner‘s second place entry ‘watergate’ is a monolithic slanting structure. with nine floors, it was the tallest standing of the projects submitted.

third place: ‘blue cave’ by zaha hadid architectsimages courtesy of zaha hadid architects


zaha hadid architect‘s third place proposal ‘blue cave’ was highly considered, however, the jury felt that the visitor aisles were relatively narrow in many areas and the dynamic styling of the interior would have competed too much with the aquariums themselves.

third place: ‘blue cave’ by zaha hadid architectsimages courtesy of zaha hadid architects


 in february 2012, 55 teams bid to construct the basel zoo’s aquarium. each one was composed of three parts: an architectural firm, aquarium designer and a general planner. from there, 15 were chosen to develop a proposal for the ‘ozeanium’. the competition jury was composed of representatives from the cantonal construction and transport department, basel zoo representatives and a number of architects, deeming ‘seacliff’ the best fit for the zoo.


construction on the new building is set to commence in 2014, and if all goes as planned, the ozeanium will open its doors to the public in 2019.


 here is a look at some of the other proposals:

‘fischerperspective’ by MVRDVimages courtesy of MVRDV

‘basel liegt am meer’ by david chipperfield architectsimages courtesy of david chipperfield architects

‘red 75’ by bernard tschumi architectsimages courtesy of bernard tschumi architects

‘reise ins meer’ by tatiana bilbaoimages courtesy of tatiana bilbao

  • what a beautiful solution! so impressed and happy it was selected as the winner! can’t wait to visit the aquarium 🙂

    sel says:
  • A client who could accept poetic self restraint. Is this going to be a precedent? Let’s hope so.

    Kenneth Smythe says:
  • bravo!

    the ghost of Breuer meet s the ghost of Nemo !

    can’t wait to see the completed project

    dbkii says:

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