Part workspace, part archive, part exhibition gallery, the Archaeological Center Augusta Raurica represents the first headquarters for a significant cultural institution safeguarding the largest Roman site in Switzerland. Phase one of construction of the excavation center in the village of Augst near Basel, Switzerland of 4,200 square meters is completed – and a further 5,200 square meters are currently being added as phase two of the LafargeHolcim Awards prize winning project by Karamuk Kuo Architects from Zurich.
Praised by the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for designing “sustainability through adaptability with an economy of means”, the structural system allows the building to adapt to new functions as the center’s needs change over time. Designed under the mantra of flexible architecture, Jeannette Kuo and Uenal Karamuk took pleasure in showing invited guests through the result of detailed planning and unconventional construction since they won the open architectural competition back in 2014. Offices, restoration labs, workshops, and storage, previously dispersed in various buildings, are being consolidated within a robust and economical spatial system that emphasizes visual transparency and a common identity.
Respecting the specific needs of each user group within the building – from researchers examining fragments of excavated jewelry to archaeologists restoring tons of ancient structures – the design focused on maximizing daylighting and providing a highly efficient, explained Jeannette Kuo. The three corridors that run the entire length of the building on both floors serve as giant passive ventilation channels, and their visual transparency promotes interaction and sharing between teams.
Phase two of construction will provide an even larger building space that will be used for archiving the collection – whereas the process from discovery of an artefact until it is consigned to storage becomes part of an exposed sequence of collaborations. The robust industrial character, celebrating storage as display, gives the institution a clear identity – and at the same time meeting the low-cost construction requirements to ensure economic viability of the project. The lightweight steel structure balanced on top of ancient ruins provides a continuous and flexible field condition that anticipates future change and growth.