Herzog & de Meuron renovate Basel’s iconic Volkshaus hotel

Herzog & de Meuron completes Switzerland's latest boutique hotel, the Volkshaus, in Basel, reviving, at the same time, a landmark part of the city

A bright lounge area at the hotel with a mustard yellow couch situated next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, across from which is a coffee table and a wooden chair with pillows.
(Image credit: TBC)

The Volkshaus has been a Basel landmark since its creation on the 14th century, a chunk of town hosting a variety of uses and often described as a ‘city within a city'. It has had many adaptations and additions since its inception. Now, its cluster of buildings have been reunited and are ready for the next chapter in this long history – its opening as a boutique hotel designed by locally based and internationally acclaimed architects Herzog & de Meuron. 

The beloved historic complex's transformation produced a chic hotel with 45 rooms – a clear departure from its immediately prior use as office space. Other past lives had included a concert hall, restaurant, bar and shop, conference rooms, administrative offices, and living quarters for some of the staff – some overlapping. Now, ‘the original diversity of the Volkshaus Basel has been reanimated and made fully accessible to the public,' explain the architects. 

Restaurant ara, with metal tables and wooden chairs arranged throughout the room. To the right, the is a metal bar area, with dark wood bar chairs.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

A big part of the project was going through the building's fabric and slowly removing the ‘crust', as the architects call it, that was applied onto the structure over the years through additions and modifications. ‘We soon realised that none of the original substance had survived except for the windows, so that we had to rely on other clues to work out our design,' explains the team. ‘Historical plans of the bedrooms in the attic were one source of information — simple rooms with bed, closet, and washbasin, of the kind still found in historical hotels today, especially in Switzerland.'

‘We also drew on some of the ideas underlying [some] 2012 renovations of the brasserie and the bar to ensure a congenial, consistent ensemble of carefully selected materials and forms throughout the Volkshaus,' adds the design team. 

Herzog & de Meuron restored the original complex's spirit and tweaked areas to bring it, respectfully, to the 21st century. Clever room design incorporates sophisticated storage solutions, stained black oak wood elements, oval windows to match those on the public areas below, and a fairly flexible, open plan floorplan.

This stylish, contemporary makeover, combined with Volkshaus' engaging, public-facing functions, will no doubt reinstate this Basel icon as a vibrant local landmark.

Dining area with dark green sitting area, wooden tables and wooden chairs. On the wall there is a round mirror.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

Bright area, with white and beige walls, a bar to the far wall with shelves behind it. A wooden structure is in the center, made out of boards that are connected in the shape of a triangle.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

A room in the hotel. Gray floors, with a wooden bed to the right, and a chair to the left. Dark brown doors are open, and we see the bathroom shower that has dark green tiles.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

A room in the hotel. Dark grey floors dark wooden chairs and a table sit in the corner. A clothes rack stands next to the wall. Grey curtains are open revealing large windows.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

A detail of a room in the hotel. A dark wood table with two chairs sits in the corner. The walls are light grey tapestry with a village working people motif.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

Living space in a hotel room. The sofa and two chairs are made of wood, with grey pillows on them. A black bar sits next to the sofa.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

A terrace at the hotel looks out at the skyline of the city. Two wooden lounge chairs with a small table sit in the center.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)

Entrance at the hotel. A woman is walking out of a hotel, that has a light beige façade.

(Image credit: Robert Rieger)




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