Chemistry & Biochemistry
Owing to its proportions, the new Chemical Institute built by architect Rolf A. Berger between 1969 and 1974 on the site of the old Chemical Institute of 1891-93 is a particularly striking and therefore not uncontroversial construction in a very central location in the Länggass district. What at first glance appears to be a down-to-earth, purpose-built construction clearly conveys the discipline's claim to be one of the leading sciences of the twentieth century. On closer inspection it reveals itself to be a generously designed structure that is in many respects well worth visiting.
As part of the Muesmattfeld, the building is exempted from the provisions of the construction class plan and simply in terms of its dimensions underlines one of the key spatial features of the entire Länggass district. The building consists of two displaced wings that are connected via a fully glazed stairwell. The architectural expression of the building consisting primarily of a steel and concrete skeleton is based on the exposed concrete walls on the narrow side, natural stone claddings and the metal/glass fillings of the office and laboratory facilities. While this type of construction was widespread prior to the oil crisis, it goes without saying that the architectural legacy of this period now needs upgrading with new thermally insulated facades throughout. This measure will also change the expression of the building here.
The Chemical Institute is a typical university building insofar as the landings and flights of stairs winding upwards around a broad stairwell are made of light terrazzo, an extremely precious material. Alongside representative purposes, this stairwell fulfills a variety of spatial needs by incorporating resting places, access to lifts and connecting platforms between the two wings. Thanks to the stairwell, the building has a common space extending across all levels – an astonishingly simple architectural idea exerting a decisive impact on the atmosphere and spatial cohesion of the building. Otherwise the building has practical and attractive furnishings comprising internal steel glass walls, PVC flooring and veneered wood that are in surprisingly good condition for their age. The roof and top-floor library were refurbished in 1998/99 by Gody Hofmann, Bern.