Zimmer Schmidt Architekten
With a careful intervention in the existing urban texture, a young office won the project competition for the new Grenchen administrative centre in June 2015. The city had launched the competition to find a solution for the spatial consolidation of various municipal offices and administrative departments. The new administrative complex consists of three parts, the "Hôtel de Ville", the new building and the connecting outdoor spaces that transform the whole plot into public space. A special focus was placed on the citizen-friendly design of the building project. The lucky winners of the architectural competition were the architectural firm Zimmer Schmidt Architekten from Zurich.
Under the name "remis", the architects Daniela Zimmer and Tilmann Schmidt presented, according to the jury report, an "exciting ensemble" of two solitaires. Through a step backwards, the newly created structure spatially subordinates itself to the existing "Hôtel de Ville". The aim of the new building is to unite the various departments of the administration in a compact building and at the same time provide them with a high degree of spatial flexibility and strong identification. The frequency of use by the citizens follows the storey structure and decreases upwards to the closed departments of the police.
A generous staggered air space characterises the interior of the new building and connects the various departments across the floors and into a spatial unit. Meeting rooms, waiting areas and access rooms are attached to it and benefit from the natural lighting situation inside the building. All publicly accessible areas of the building are located at the airspace, making it the main orientation point within the building. In spite of the spaciousness of the adjoining waiting areas, targeted and glazed openings ensure a high degree of discretion and the required visual protection. A ring of offices surrounds the central core zone. Optimally usable room depths enable both classic cubicle offices and more open, networked administrative concepts. Despite its high degree of flexibility, the building has an unmistakable character, becoming an inspiring place to work and an inviting arrival point for the citizens of Grenchen.
They reach the waiting area and the counters via the spacious entrance area with adjoining meeting zone. From here, the public staircase leads directly to the waiting areas of the social services, which are located on the first floor. Above this is the contact point for the security services. Their arrival area is connected to the parking hall and the attic floor above via the second, internal staircase.
This enables the security services to operate as a self-contained unit within the public building. The restrained façade design is seen by the jury as a nod to the industrial architecture of the 1950s. "The new building has a very interesting cut, which is reflected in atmospheric interior situations. The interplay between the defiant old building and the elegant new building has a stimulating effect." The exciting ensemble appealed to the jury, and the city president hoped to come closer to his goal of merging the administration and a citizen-oriented, efficient operation. The architectural visualisations created for the competition by loomn show how the two different structures separate from each other in the morning light. The interior comes to life through the use of warm surface materials and evokes memories of Mediterranean urban structures. Light reflections dissolve the spatial contours and bring the visual relationships between the storeys to the fore. The administrative departments can be divided between the two buildings according to a simple principle. The most citizen-intensive uses find their adequate place in the new building. The representative departments are located in the "Hôtel de Ville", which still characterises the face of Grenchen's municipal administration today.