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“People should talk about architecture”

Herzog & de Meuron from Basel are among the most respected architects in the world since the construction of the Tate Gallery in London. On TheTalk@TheStudio, Pierre de Meuron discussed the unusual partnership, the meaning of the Helvetia Campus for Basel and the Oscar Awards.

17 January 2018, author: Hansjörg Ryser, photos: Thomas Lüthi (Ringier) video: Ramona de Cesaris (Ringier)

Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have known each other for over 60 years - they have been friends since childhood. By chance both of them went into architecture and launched their career together in 1978. Over the years, the architecture firm, Herzog & de Meuron has grown into a company with over 400 employees. “The Chinese would say the stars favoured us”, Pierre de Meuron replied when hostess Christine Maier asked about their recipe for success.

Architecture needs to serve people

But that’s not the only thing, of course. Both of them believe architecture needs to serve people. People need to feel comfortable. Pierre de Meuron is aware that “buildings are part of our culture”. For them, it’s not a specific style that takes centre stage but rather the environment where a project unfolds, and the customer’s needs. That is why Herzog & de Meuron would never construct a building to represent a ruler’s system. Buildings like the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg or Beijing National Stadium are meeting places for the people. The church in Mexico located directly on the border with the USA is to become a future-oriented project for Mexican youth after being blessed by the Pope.

Contributing to Basel: The Helvetia Campus

In a broader context, the “Campus” project for Helvetia’s main office in Basel is also associated with the development of the city. “We have too many hideous buildings in Switzerland”, Pierre de Meuron observed critically during the forum event, “TheTalk@TheStudio” hosted by Ringier and Helvetia, where once again every last seat was taken. Urban sprawl is endangering one of our few resources, the landscape. Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog agree on that every bit as much as they do on the future of their company. “It should outlive us”, de Meuron divulged. That is why he has withdrawn from operational management and now enjoys working in a young and dynamic team. And that is also how he finds time for things like going to the Oscar Awards in Hollywood, where his son Jean was nominated for his film “La femme et le TGV”. “That was a huge deal for him”, his father Pierre says happily, “but the show was bad”.


The “TheTalk@TheStudio” series from Helvetia and Ringier welcomed another exciting guest in the form of star architect Pierre de Meuron. Hosts Marc Walder, CEO of Ringier, and Dr Philipp Gmür, CEO of Helvetia, each invite around 70 guests to a talk at the Ringier Pressehaus, where presenter Christine Maier interviews a high-profile guest from the world of politics and business.

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