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The Maki Building, Novartis Campus, Basel, Switzerland

Issue 57 Oct / Nov 2010 : Commercial : Workplace

ARCHITECT: Maki and Associates LIGHTING DESIGNER: Licht Kunst Licht,

The Maki Building, designed by the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, is the latest addition to the Novartis Campus in Basel, Switzerland.

Headquarters to pharmaceuticals developer Novartis Pharma AG, the campus is a constantly evolving site, with an ever-growing list of inspirational, world-class architecture. Buildings by Tadao Ando, David Chipperfield, Diener & Diener, Frank O. Gehry, Adolf Krischanitz, Peter Märkli, Álvaro Siza and others are tied together under a masterplan drawn up by Milan-based architect Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani.
The masterplan lays down not only important urban design and architectural principles but also provides conceptual guidelines for designing the working environments inside the buildings.

The pharmaceutical industry is incredibly competitive with great pressure to innovate and tackle complex problematic issues. In this context, the constant exchange of information and knowledge is crucial to the survival of a company. To this end, Novartis has organised its offices and laboratories according to a multi-space concept that promotes unrestricted interdisciplinary communication. All areas offer a wide variety of spaces and workstations, allowing staff members the choice of single or group work places, of open meeting islands or small enclosed conference rooms.

Accordingly, 150 multi-space workstations are housed in this latest addition to the campus. The building, as designed by Fumihiko Maki, accommodates offices on seven floors, with storage space in the basement. One striking feature of the Maki building is its remarkable transparency and openness. The individual office floors are opened up to one another by means of spaces that span more than one level. Not a single wall obstructs the office floors, which are contained by large window surfaces. A lighting concept was required that would in no way disrupt this unbroken spaciousness. Lighting designers Licht Kunst Licht had to create a scheme that would keep the open volume free of light fixtures while providing good visual conditions for office tasks.

Their solution was a custom light fixture. Working in close collaboration with the luminaire manufacturer and furniture supplier, they incorporated the lighting fixture into the workstations and sideboards. Located between two facing, individually height-adjustable desks is a fixed central console supporting a luminaire two metres in length, set 70 centimetres above the desk surface. It fulfils two functions: high-power LEDs with specially designed optical accessories provide localised task lighting while fluorescent lamps serve as indirect components, illuminating the ceiling. Only a small fraction of their luminous flux is directed downwards through a translucent PMMA strip.

While the short distance between light outlet and work surface permitted the use of a highly efficient LED solution, the unusual light fixture location of the indirect component demanded meticulous glare control, as anyone standing nearby is able to look down onto the top of the luminaire. Micro-prism panels were therefore used as covers. These guarantee a homogeneous light distribution while providing 360° glare control. In order to illuminate the ceiling above the entire floor area, the sideboards were also fitted with lighting profiles, but without the direct LED light component.

Cutting-edge light sources and optical accessories make the custom-made light fixture a particularly energy-efficient solution. Further saving potentials are exploited by means of a DALI-driven daylight-dependent lighting control for the indirect light portion. Other interesting functional details are the use of one of the two fluorescent lamps as emergency lighting and the possibility of linking individual luminaires by a connecting element to form continuous light channels.
The illuminated ceiling and the positioning of the light fixtures at chest height fulfil the designers’ objectives to perfection. The spaces appear vast and open; lines of sight extend across the entire length of the floors. The only dominant vertical features are the spiral staircases and the conference cubicles in the office’s central corridor.

The small, fully glazed cubicles, known as ‘private rooms’, serve as spaces for internal meetings and are capped by a luminous ceiling. This provides homogeneous, dimmable task illumination downwards, while also emitting diffuse light in the upward direction through a translucent top cover. This indirect portion lights up the ceiling above the surrounding circulation zone and contributes considerably to the floating impression made by the luminous, oval shaped transparent enclosures.
A similar floating appearance is evoked by the large-format custom light fixtures in the conference areas. They are pendant mounted like a second level above the standalone tables, they precisely tracing the tables’ contours and acting as a spatial brace, protectively girding the conference participants while at the same time maintaining the openness of the space. This space-defining function is particularly important since the conference areas are often located in the zones of the office levels that span two floors. Here, the large light fixtures mediate between the vast room heights and the subjective need for structures offering a sense of enclosure. The combination of direct and indirect light is again used in the large-format pendant luminaires. Fluorescent lamps emit diffuse, indirect light upwards through frosted acrylic top covers. Glare-free, dimmable halogen light is directed downwards through prismatic glass.

In the building’s foyer, stairwells and functional rooms, the lighting concept diverges from the direct-indirect combination. The entire foyer is spanned by a combined water and air-cooled louver ceiling. Short luminous lines have been positioned at regular intervals between the wood veneer slats. This grid is continued above the training and conference rooms that are embedded in the foyer space - separated only by glass and plasterboard partitions. An acrylic diffuser, mounted flush with the ceiling, functions as the luminaire cover throughout. Only the lamping differs in the training and meeting zones in order to provide for the higher illuminance levels necessary there. The light fixtures continue in long arrays, parallel to the wooden louvers across the entire space, underscoring the perspective impact.

Since work began on the campus in 2002, 10 ambitious buildings have been completed. At night there is a striking interplay between the different façdes, lit up by their artificial interior illumination. Here too, the Maki building demonstrates its openness and transparency. The bands of windows give passers-by a clear view of the illuminated ceilings, expressing the permeable, communicative ethos of the office within to the outside world.

Project Details
Novartis Pharma AG
Client: Novartis Pharma AG
Lighting Designer: Licht Kunst Licht, Bonn / Berlin
Architect: Maki and Associates, Tokyo
Photographs: Lukas Roth, Cologne

Lighting Specified
Rentex: luminous ceiling Luxell with T16 fluorescent lamps
ERCO: downlights Lightcast with TC-TEL compact fluorescent lamp
LKL (custom-made): pendant luminaire with QTax12 IRC + T16 fluorescent lamps; luminous lines in wooden ceiling, ground floor and stair wells with T16 fluorescent lamps
We-ef: floor-recessed uplight ETC with HIT-CRI lamp decorative floor lights Jones Master
Regent: light batten for indirect lighting above furniture in copy/cloakroom with 21W /28W
Siteco: tasklight with T16 fluorescent lamps, LED modules; sideboard light with T16 fluorescent lamps; Wall-recessed luminaires Ceiling washer with asymmetrical reflector above elevator doors with T16 fluorescent lamps


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