Novartis campus visit

22 Oct. 2016

Thirty-one MIT Club members and guests toured the Novartis Campus in Basel on Saturday, October 22, in an event organised by Eva Krug. Between 2005 and 2015, Novartis opened 17 new buildings based on a 2001 master plan meant to attract the world’s best talent to Basel despite its population of only 190,000. Each building had its own architect.

The campus arose just south of the French border on the old industrial site of Sandoz, which merged with Ciba-Geigy to form the healthcare company Novartis in 1996. Novartis paid the city of Basel 100 million Swiss francs for former port facilities to extend the campus to the west bank of the Rhine, where a public riverbank promenade is nearing completion.

Some 10,000 people, including 8,000 Novartis employees – of which 2,300 are scientists and only a third are Swiss – work on the campus, which has stores, numerous restaurants and a post office to save employees’ time. But neighborhood businesses outside the campus are also said to be doing well.

A design principle for the buildings’ interiors is visibility of people as they work and move around to promote informal networking. Frank Gehry designed a 2009 building composed of huge wavy glass blocks that houses the human resources department.

Water from underground rocks that are cooled in winter or warmed in the summer help keep employees comfortable in the opposite season. To encourage public transport use, the campus’s 3000 parking spaces are allocated to employees with the longest commutes. And a bike garage will soon open.

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George Raymond