Wheel of Light

Exclusively for bicycles, a parking garage with impressive light was built on the Novartis Campus in Basel

More and more people are switching from cars to bikes for their daily commute; this is also true in the Swiss city of Basel. Exclusively for bicycles, the pharmaceutical group Novartis built an underground parking garage for its staff members on the campus. Completed in the summer of 2017, a generous subterranean space for more than 800 bicycles was created which – as it is rather unusual for this application – forms an impressive architectural site. With this spectacular room, the Swiss-Italian architect Marco Serra has succeeded at creating an extraordinary project. At the center of the lighting concept, which was developed in collaboration with Licht Kunst Licht, are oversized light wheels that provide the general lighting as an impressive graphic gesture while immersing the artfully corrugated exposed concrete walls in soft light.

Inspired by the famous architecture of Lina Bo Bardi in Brazil, the elongated underground space is enclosed by corrugated concrete walls, while the exposed concrete ceiling and the PU flooring display a deep blue hue.
“Underground spaces rarely convey the feeling of well-being and good orientation. The lack of reference to the outside world is a major reason for this”, says Marco Serra, adding: “We have therefore designed the bicycle garage as a coherent hall with a clear perimeter wall. It was designed as a curtain wall made of corrugated concrete, which provides the user good orientation and pleasant appearance by their vibration and refraction. As in an above-ground building, a façade has been created that, despite the lack of a view, gives a connection to the outside world.”

The organic design vocabulary of the ribbed wall is continued in 16 large circular ceiling recesses, which tangibly enhance the relatively low ceiling height of 2.80m relative to the hall-like space. “With the large fields of light we wanted to create an association with skylights. The cassette-like recesses in the concrete made it possible to design oversized, round luminous volumes”, explains Marco Serra.

“The idea of using the cylindrical ceiling recesses as a place for the light and filling them with oversized light wheels has been realized in close cooperation with the architect”, explains Licht Kunst Licht project and team leader Martina Weiss. “At first we had the idea to make the profile of the ring light itself an organic form. However, due to the complexity and the unreasonably high costs, this idea was rejected.” Instead of the organic, wavy form, the luminaire was realized in the shape of a cone. This was significantly easier to manufacture, as expensive press and thermoforming of the PMMA material was avoided.

In each ceiling recess, the lighting concept allocates oversized diffuse ring luminaires with a stately exterior diameter of 7m. The 16 luminous “wheels” are the result of a complex custom luminaire development, which were designed and constructed by Licht Kunst Licht and produced by Trilux.
Based on material and luminaire mockups, the lighting effect was first tested in the office of Licht Kunst Licht, followed by a 1:1 mockup, which was initially set up in a Trilux production hall. Here, connection joints, the position of the LEDs, light color selection etc. were repeatedly fine tuned. The mockup was then installed in the underground car park in Basel and evaluated by the entire design team. “The effect, in combination with the designed provisional floor and ceiling colors, was very convincing”, sums up Martina Weiss. “Only a few joints and seals had to be adjusted, otherwise this mockup could already be used as one of the 16 luminous wheels for the final installation.”

Each bespoke luminaire consists of an annular slanting shell of white translucent PMMA, which has been divided into 12 individual segments. In addition to insect proofing requirements, the concrete’s construction tolerance of ± 2cm represented an enormous challenge. The light source consists of an LED ribbon with a 120° light distribution, installed on a mounting plate carrying the drivers on the rear side. They continuously and homogenously backlight the PMMA surface with neutral white light.
A daylight- and presence detecting control system guarantees an energy efficient lighting solution that ensures a general illumination of at least 150lx in the garage, thus providing orientation and a sense of safety.

The staff members reach the parking area comfortably via a ramp, or two generous staircases that connect the space with the newly created park above. The illumination of the vertical access is provided by low-level wall recessed luminaires that have been integrated into the ribbed concrete wall with a sophisticated detail. By virtue of their asymmetrical light distribution, the steps and the ramps are uniformly illuminated without any spill light onto the walls.

The lighting solution for the access routes was preceded by several discussions and various options. “Ultimately, we opted for this variant together with the architect, because only the recessed wall luminaires make it possible to direct the light so precisely onto the steps”, explains Martina Weiss. “It was important to us that the rhythm and continuity of the concrete walls were not disturbed by stray light, e.g. via downlights.” The details of the recessed wall luminaire experienced an intensive coordination process, as the wall connection had to be flush with the wave crests.

The park located above the bicycle garage was designed by the American landscape design practice Good Form Studio from Columbus, Ohio. Its goal was to create quality of stay in the outdoor environment and to attract employees to the park.

A glazed pavilion extends an invitation to spend one’s lunch break outdoors while sheltered from wind and rain and offers a generous space for company events and exhibitions. Over the years, the pavilion’s glazed roof will be overtaken by natural vegetation and shading through grapevines. Underneath, a playful installation of unshielded LED filament lamps on catenary cables has been implemented. The boardwalk crossing the park is illuminated by light bollards, which have been designed specifically for this project. They gently enhance the wooden deck and guide the evening visitor in a glare-free manner.

Project Credits:
Project: Underground parking garage for bicycles
Architect: Marco Serra Architekt, Basel
Staff member Julian Trachsel
Landscape Designer: Good Form Studio, Columbus, Ohio
Project Controller: Ernst Basler + Partner AG
Lighting Design: Licht Kunst Licht AG, Bonn / Berlin
Project- and team leader: Martina Weiss
Project team: Till Armbrüster, Thomas Möritz, Andreas Schulz
Completion: 2017
Photos: Johannes Roloff

Luminaires and manufacturers:
Ring luminaires: Trilux, Bespoke
Recessed wall sconces: Erco, Visor
Downlights: Flos, Kap
Catenary luminaires: Viabizzuno, Catenaria di luce serpentine
Bollard luminaires: Bergmeister, Bespoke


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