BIS tower

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BIS tower
BIS tower
BIZ tower from the northwest with the plinth building housing the auditorium in the foreground
Basic data
Place: Centralbahnplatz 2, Basel
Construction time : 1972-1977
Opening: May 9, 1977
Status : completed
Architectural style : Modern
Architect : Burckhardt and Partner AG
Use / legal
Usage : Administration building
Jobs : around 600
Owner : BIZ
Main tenant: BIZ
Client : BIZ
Technical specifications
Height to the top: 69.5 m
Depth: 15 m
Floors : 20th
Floor area : 30,000 m²
Building material : Steel , reinforced concrete
Height comparison
Basel : 5. ( list )
Switzerland : 21. ( list )
City: Basel
Country: Switzerland

The BIZ-Turm , a rare BIS high-rise , is a 69.5-meter-high administration tower and the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel . The skyscraper designed by the architect Martin Burckhardt and built from 1972 to 1977 is a landmark of the Centralbahnplatz and the city of Basel. From the year of construction until 2003, it was the third tallest building in the city. The BIZ tower shapes the skyline of Basel with its distinctive silhouette and was the style-defining color scheme and aesthetic for some commercial and administrative buildings in the 1970s.

Due to a special agreement and international agreements, the building has a special legal status. In addition to its function as the administrative headquarters, the building is used by the BIS for international meetings and conferences.

Function and special status

The BIS tower is primarily used by the BIS as its administrative and head office. Together with the Botta building on Aeschenplatz , the bank houses around 600 workplaces. The BIZ archive located in the basement is on the list of cultural assets of national importance in the canton of Basel-Stadt .

In addition, the BIS tower is a regular meeting place every two months for decision-makers from the IMF and national central banks . The informal exchange - the so-called Basel Process - serves to promote cooperation between the central banks and other bodies and is an essential pillar of the international financial stability discussion. In this context, over 5000 participants meet annually in the events organized by the BIS. This includes international committees and standard-setting bodies, such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, known for the Basel III framework .

Similar to the United Nations , the ICRC or the IMF , the BIS has a special status. Finance employees are given immunity and are not allowed to be searched. The building with all its parts also has a special role. The building and the site are treated like an embassy and are invulnerable (Swiss usage) or inviolable (German usage). It is part of the Swiss national territory, on which national sovereignty can only be enforced to a limited extent.

Swiss authorities are only granted access if the President or the Director General of the BIS grants permission and renounces the fundamental inviolability of the territory. This circumstance is colloquially, somewhat simplified but legally not quite appropriately referred to by the press as extraterritorial status. This special status is regulated by an agreement that came into force on January 1, 1987, which the BIS concluded with the Swiss Federal Council . The agreement has its origins in an agreement of January 20, 1930, which was concluded at the Hague Conference. Approval from the BIS President or Director General is required for access by Swiss authorities, including the police.



With the founding of the BIS Basel 1930 was determined as the headquarters of the company in January. For this reason, the organization initially rented the Grand Hôtel et Savoy Hôtel Univers on Basel's Centralbahnplatz for its events and meetings for two years . This provisional facility was initially rented and purchased from 1949 and effectively remained in place until the 1970s.

Between 1954 and 1966, the increasing need for space led the architect Martin Burckhardt to work out a number of building projects that could be implemented on the 3300 square meter plot of land owned by the bank. It turns out that the project was not able to meet the requirements on this basis. For this reason, between 1966 and 1972, the BIZ gradually acquired the approximately 7,500 square meter area near the train station on which its current headquarters are located. In 1969, Martin Burckhardt submitted three designs for this new piece of land. The board of directors of the BIS initially decided on the variant in which an 82 meter high cylindrical tower with 24 floors was planned. Due to the objection of the Basel homeland security that the height of the building would impair the historical silhouette of the city, the original design - called vegetative design - was reduced to 69.5 meters and 20 floors. In contrast to the original proposal, the model envisaged a “waisted” cylinder with a capacity for 300 employees.


BIZ tower construction phase.jpg
Basel - Construction work on the BIZ tower 1976.jpg

BIS tower during the construction phase, left: around 1975, right: March 1976

A referendum of the city population accepted this draft with an approval of 69%, so that in 1972 construction work could begin. An excavation pit to a depth of 15 meters was created for the foundation of the high-rise. The building ground in the Rhine gravel consisted of gravel sand material. The construction pit was closed off vertically by underpinning elements and reinforced with alluvial anchors. The groundwater level was 2 to 3 meters below the base of the excavation pit, 4 to 9 meters below this was the surface of the Cyrennen mergel .

Business operations began on March 21, 1977, the first meeting of the Board of Directors was held on April 19, and the official inauguration took place on May 9 of the same year. At the time of construction, the BIZ tower was the third tallest skyscraper in the city and the tallest in the city center.

Since it was built

With the expansion of the field of activity and the associated increase in personnel requirements, the BIZ launched an international architecture competition in 1997 to redesign the administration tower. The Japanese architect Toyo Ito won this with his office, which provided for two towers. However, the redesign was never realized. Instead, in May 1998, the BIZ acquired a building designed by Mario Botta on Basel's Aeschenplatz, in which UBS was originally located. This modern building with six upper and six lower floors as well as the adjoining neo-baroque villa were extensively converted by the BIZ for their purposes after the purchase. She has been using it as a second building since 1999, in which the banking department, risk controlling and IT department are housed.

In the meantime, the number of meetings has increased to 300 and that of its participants to 9,000 annually, the same applies to the personnel requirements, so that the BIS has been evaluating additional options for expansion since 2014. For this purpose, the BIZ has submitted a zone change for the area immediately south of the current tower to the canton for further expansion. A multi-storey building is planned to be added to the base of the BIZ tower. The Herzog & de Meuron office is currently overseeing the construction plans. Construction will not start before 2020, however, and the specific construction will be decided via an architectural competition. The current gross floor area of ​​30,000 square meters should then increase to 68,000.


Location and surroundings

Aerial photo from the north-west (1978) with the BIZ tower, Nauenstrasse, in the background on the left the Lonza high-rise

The BIZ tower is located on the north-eastern edge of Centralbahnplatz, a central traffic junction in Basel; Basel SBB train station is on its south side . The building stands on a square plot of land bounded by Heumattenstrasse in the west, Centralbahnstrasse in the south and Gartenstrasse in the east. The entire property area is owned by the BIZ. The multi-lane Nauenstrasse to the north is a heavily trafficked west-east axis in the city center. At the height of the BIZ tower is the ramp of the eastern portal to the Nauentunnel, which allows the middle part of the Nauenstrasse to run underground. With five lines of the Basel tram , the BIZ is also at a junction of local public transport.

In the immediate vicinity of the BIZ tower are Post 2, Hotel Schweizerhof, the administration building of the Basler Versicherung and opposite the intersection the Strasbourg monument and the Elisabethenanlage park. By 2020, the Baloise Park with the 89 meter high Baloise skyscraper will be built north of the BIZ Tower on the area of ​​the Hotel Hilton, which was demolished in 2016 .

Architecture and construction technology

Sectional view (northwest-southeast direction) through the cylindrical core of the BIZ tower

The 69.5 meter high administration and conference building in the form of a rotunda has its main entrance on the corner of Nauenstrasse and Heumattstrasse. The building with concave lines has a ground floor and 19 upper floors as well as four basement floors, which include, for example, an underground car park for around 300 vehicles, workshops, archive rooms, rooms for technical systems, an air raid shelter and an infirmary. On the lower floors, the circular floor plan of the building has a diameter of around 30 meters.

The circular storeys have a cylindrical core as a supply shaft in which, among other things, the elevator systems are housed. The copper-colored facade consists of a hyperboloid shell, which consists of twelve load-bearing steel columns and uniformly inserted, glazed metal elements. Each storey consists of 72 façade elements made of polished and anodized aluminum using the Colinal process . Of these, 60 elements are permanently glazed and twelve are designed as solid elements, behind which the load-bearing main pillars are hidden. The steel parts are hot and spray galvanized; the glazing is solar control glass. Two external systems are available for facade maintenance.

View from the northeast, the busy Nauenstrasse

The construction volume is 174,000 cubic meters, almost half of which is underground. As the high-rise is built on gravel from the Rhine , the foundation slab under the tower is 150 centimeters thick, and at the edge of the basement it is 60 centimeters. On the lower floors, columns and walls serve as the inner load-bearing element, which are consistently set radially in 15 and 30-degree sections. The reinforced concrete ceilings take on the dead load as well as the payload and wind load and transfer these forces to the core. In addition to the elevators, the exhaust air ducts are also located in the supply core. Half of them run down and up into the two centers. In addition, there are also the sanitary installations and parts of the electrical ducts. The external support areas bring drafts and cooling water to the parapet units . The storeys close to the ground also lead outside stairwells, which in turn transfer the stiffening load to the foundations .

In the area of ​​the main entrance is the large auditorium with 280 seats, which is clad with a granite facade. The pent roof is inclined towards the tower. This cantilevered base structure has a mounting option for flags on the roof, which is used for flagging on official occasions . There is a water basin with a small fountain on the forecourt in front of the base building. The border of the water basin corresponds to the granite stone used for the base construction.

Environment design and planting

Terrace planting, view from Heumattstrasse

The BIZ tower is surrounded by this extensive base structure, the roof of which is partially covered with richly planted terrace gardens and extends to the seventh floor. This "flowing" base of the stepped terraces to the southeast and southwest represent a design compromise. The free-standing high-rise tower is intended to integrate the surrounding area and - unlike conventional tower structures - has its own front and back. Towards Nauenstrasse, the BIZ tower appears representative and creates a counterpoint to the busy street. To Heumattstrasse and Gartenstrasse a heterogeneous mixture of traditional houses exist quartered , parking garage and Postareal. The green back side wants to create an approximation to this side. Robust ground cover and perennials , including rhododendrons , were used for the gardens on the terraces and courtyards . The planting should provide the necessary contrast to the massive tower architecture and thus convey a calm, reserved atmosphere.

Interior design

Since even press representatives are barely granted access due to strict safety regulations, mostly only historical pictures and descriptions of the interior are known. If you look at the building in the circular floor plan , the supply shaft, in which toilets and elevators are housed, is located in the middle. A corridor runs concentrically around this supply core and leads to the office space in the shape of a segment of a circle. The geometrically shaped rooms are covered with carpets and the furniture corresponds to an exclusive lounge atmosphere that was carried over from the time when the BIZ was located in the Grand Hotel . The arrangement of the lavishly upholstered leather armchairs allows for discretion and tranquility. According to JM Andreoli, who was head of department at the BIZ in the late 1970s, the BIZ is said to have attached particular importance to this design.

Furthermore, due to the special character of the BIZ tower, no open- plan offices have been implemented inside . Most of the workspaces are designed as single-user offices. Semi-mobile plaster walls also offer good sound insulation.

The ground floor with the main entrance also includes a staff restaurant. The first floor houses the large foyer with the auditorium and four other meeting and conference rooms as well as simultaneous interpreting systems for several languages. 16 floors are intended for office space, the 18th floor has an integrated dining room, which is used for meetings of the Board of Directors and for receiving the governors of the central bank. A part of the building services is housed on the 19th floor with the air conditioning center and the elevator engine room.


As a typical building from the 1970s, the BIZ tower shapes the city skyline. Since there are no high-rise buildings over 100 meters in Basel with the exception of the Messeturm and the Roche Tower, which was completed in 2015 , the distinctive shape of the BIZ Tower is noticeable from many sides of the city. The local press in Basel received the tower very positively. The building was named a new landmark at the time of construction . In the article of a special supplement to the Basler Zeitung , the newspaper spoke of an “undoubtedly impressive new creation” and a finely-tuned design language thanks to the concave lines. The intentions of the design also withstood international comparisons. The basic idea of ​​“vegetative architecture” has been implemented harmoniously in the choice of material, texture and color. The building creates a calm, reserved atmosphere. The magazine Architektur & Technik judged in a retrospective in 2003 that the location near the SBB train station was well chosen because it provided important impulses. A number of buildings of urban significance, such as the Peter Merian House , were built around the railway station track system , which have significantly upgraded the district.

BIZ tower with old town and bend in the Rhine

The construction of the BIS tower directly affected the Hilton Hotel opposite, opened in 1975 and closed in 2015 and demolished in 2016. The color scheme of the hotel was adopted in direct consultation with the architectural office Burckhardt und Partner. Other new buildings in the 1970s, such as the new building for the headquarters of the Swiss Bank Corporation (today the UBS building), chose the same building materials as the BIS for the facade design.

In critical reports on the global financial world, which the Bank for International Settlements also played a key role in, the BIS Tower is often shown and described as the “Tower of Basel” or its construction as the “Tower of Basel”. The association with the Tower of Babel should be awakened as a symbol for the hubris and striving for power in the financial world. However, this symbol is primarily derived from the international financial institution and its role and less from the building itself.


  • International Settlements Bank. In: werk. 1/1976, p. 752. (online)
  • JM Andreoli: The BIS administration building. internal publication of the BIZ, Basel (year of publication unknown).
  • Max Hoch, Max Egloff: Setting out the building for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel. In: Schweizerische Bauzeitung . September 1977, pp. 605-608. (on-line)
  • Wolf Hunziker: Environment design for the administration building of the Bank for International Settlements (BIZ) in Basel. In: Anthos. 20/1981, pp. 1-5. (on-line)
  • Martin H. Burckhardt: Building desire. Basel 2000, ISBN 3-905065-35-5 , pp. 202-209.
  • At the foot of the tower. In: Architecture & Technology. ARGUS der Presse AG, Zurich 12/2003. (Leaflet insert)
  • Grand Council of the Canton of Basel-Stadt: Advice “Areal Bank for International Settlements (BIS)” , Basel 11/2014. (PDF)

Web links

Commons : BIZ tower  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Agreement of February 10, 1987, Art. 3
  2. The most exclusive club in the world and its dark past. In: Basler Zeitung . August 5, 2013, accessed September 22, 2014.
  3. ^ Deutsche Bundesbank : Bank for International Settlements (BIS). ( Memento of October 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) accessed on September 22, 2014.
  4. ^ City of Basel: Areal Bank for International Settlements (BIZ). (PDF), p. 3, accessed on September 22, 2014.
  5. Agreement between the Swiss Federal Council and the Bank for International Settlements to regulate the legal position of the bank in Switzerland. at: , accessed on September 23, 2014.
  6. ^ Agreement on the Bank for International Settlements , concluded on January 20, 1930, came into force on February 26, 1930 at , accessed on November 4, 2015.
  7. a b Basel's best-kept secret. In: TagesWoche . August 19, 2013, accessed September 23, 2014.
  8. a b c J. M. Andreoli: The administration building of the BIZ. P. 1.
  9. a b c The BIS's Basel buildings. at: , accessed September 22, 2014.
  10. ^ Hoch, Egloff: Setting out the building for international settlement (BIS) in Basel. In: Schweizerische Bauzeitung. September 1977, p. 606.
  11. ^ JM Andreoli: The administration building of the BIZ. P. 2.
  12. Government Council of the Canton of Basel-Stadt: Advice "Areal Bank for International Settlements (BIS)" (PDF)
  13. The BIS is growing - and therefore needs more space. In: Basellandschaftliche Zeitung . August 20, 2014, accessed September 23, 2014.
  14. BIZ wants to grow at the Basel train station. on: , August 19, 2014, accessed on September 24, 2014.
  15. Grand Council of the Canton of Basel-Stadt: Advice Areal Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Zone change, development plan , p. 117 (PDF)
  16. ^ Demolition of the former Hotel Hilton in March 2016 | Retrieved March 21, 2017 .
  17. Start of construction in Baloise Park - Baloise Group. Retrieved March 21, 2017 .
  18. ^ Hoch, Egloff: Setting out the building for international settlement (BIS) in Basel. In: Schweizerische Bauzeitung. September 1977, p. 605.
  19. Martin H. Burckhardt: Baulust. P. 206.
  20. ^ A b c Martin H. Burckhardt: Baulust. P. 209.
  21. At the foot of the tower. In: Architecture & Technology. December 2003, pp. 2, 5.
  22. Environment design for the administration building of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel. P. 2.
  23. Insights into the most mysterious bank in the world. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. August 20, 2013, accessed November 4, 2015.
  24. a b Oliver Braams: Spaceship BIZ - this is how it looks inside the tower. In: TagesWoche. June 19, 2014, accessed October 12, 2015 .
  25. ^ JM Andreoli: The administration building of the BIZ. P. 3, 4.
  26. ^ JM Andreoli: The administration building of the BIZ. P. 2, 3.
  27. The Tower of Basel. on: , September 2, 2012.
  28. The Tower of Basel: Secret Plans for a Global Currency. ( Memento of the original from October 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved September 29, 2014. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  29. Adam Lebor : The Tower of Basel: BIS - Bank of banks and their dark history ( Memento of 6 October 2014 in the Internet Archive ), Rotpunktverlag, Zurich 2014, ISBN 978-3-85869-589-5 , accessed on 29 September 2014.

Coordinates: 47 ° 32 '53.1 "  N , 7 ° 35' 30.4"  E ; CH1903:  611529  /  two hundred sixty-six thousand three hundred eighty-three

This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on October 18, 2015 .