Roche Pharmaceuticals’ new workspace is ‘industrial palazzo’

Roche Pharmaceuticals gets a new multifunctional workspace for their Grenzach-Wyhlen campus, designed by Swiss architecture studio Christ & Gantenbein

hero exterior of Roche office by Christ & Gantenbein
Roche Pharmaceuticals, Germany
(Image credit: Walter Mair)

An ‘industrial palazzo’ has been added to the growing campus of Roche pharmaceuticals in Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany, near the Swiss border. The building, carefully tuned to balance the generous, no-nonsense attitude and durability of an industrial building and the cutting-edge, sleek feel of contemporary office architecture, is the creation of Christ & Gantenbein. This is the third structure that the Swiss architecture studio, located in nearby Basel, has designed for the healthcare multinational – but it's one that stands out for its minimalist expression and cool, almost painterly nature.

Roche’s multifunctional workspace building follows the architects’ signature approach and aesthetic that blends the use of seamless, scuptural concrete with pared down forms and supreme functionality. Works such as the Swiss National Museum’s extension in Basel and chocolate maker Lindt’s headquarters and factory near Zurich have helped the studio carve a reputation as a deft hand at balancing drama and subtlety, the hardness of concrete with soft, plastic forms. 

generous auditorium at Roche office by Christ & Gantenbein

(Image credit: Walter Mair)

The building is designed as a simple cubic volume, defined by concrete, aluminium and glass elements. Clever structure support systems allow for a flowing, column-free interior that can be flexible and open. This open-plan generosity can be felt throughout – a perfect embodiment of the architects’ intention, as the office building was conceived as a fluid, non-hierarchical space for Roche’s employees. A ground floor, multifunctional, publicly accessible hall and adaptable workspace allow maximum internal and operational flexibility. At the same time, transparent façades ensure natural light and views are a big part of  daily working life in this office. 

The furniture is bespoke, especially developed from a concept created by INCHfurniture in collaboration with Christ & Gantenbein. The pieces are adaptable, moveable and often modular, complementing the building’s inherent flexibility. 

detail of masterful glass facade of Roche office by Christ & Gantenbein

(Image credit: Walter Mair)

Hoping to create an office that feels sharp and modern, but at the same time addresses the needs of the workspace of the future, the architecture studio’s co-founder Emanuel Christ, says: ‘Our multifunctional workspace building anticipated what is essential for both today and tomorrow. This was only possible through the incredibly ambitious goal pursued by all involved parties: to create something unconventional, to develop and propose something different, and to invent our own version and interpretation of contemporary collaboration. 

‘We want to provide a space for what cannot be done remotely,’ he continues. ‘We want to equip a workspace with personality, diversity, freedom, and flexibility in order to provide a positive experience for Roche’s employees and invite the local community to participate. Christ & Gantenbein’s architecture created the frame that allows all these special moments to unfold. This is what we have achieved here and this makes me very proud.’

concrete and glass in the interior of Roche office by Christ & Gantenbein

(Image credit: Walter Mair)

large open plan interior with views out at Roche office by Christ & Gantenbein

(Image credit: Walter Mair)

ethereal canteen at Roche office by Christ & Gantenbein

(Image credit: Walter Mair)

INFORMATION

christgantenbein.com (opens in new tab)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).

With contributions from