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If experimental architectural landmarks like Buckminster Fuller’s Expo 67 Biosphere and Disney’s EPCOT ball serve as clues, prevailing design logic dictates that a glimpse of the future is best delivered in spherical form. The latest in this line of impressive, forward-thinking destinations is Novartis Pavillon, commissioned by pharmaceutical company Novartis to host the permanent multimedia exhibition “Wonders of Medicine” at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland.

The building’s designers — AMDL Circle and Michele De Lucchi — understood that a venue dedicated to communicating the power of science ought to incorporate a few scientific breakthroughs of its own. In turn, they worked with design studio iart to develop an innovative zero-energy media facade system that more than lives up to the inspiring spectacles on display inside. 

Installed across the building’s shell, more than 30,000 double-sided LEDs shine light both outward and down to the metal frame they rest on, creating a distinctive glow. Yet this is only half the story: Each of these LEDs is also integrated into a semi-transparent diamond-shaped organic solar module (a less carbon-intensive photovoltaic panel than silicon versions). As a result, all the energy consumed by the pavilion’s lighting scheme is matched by the energy that the building captures. To further bolster the project’s sustainability bona fides, the design was assembled in a former Novartis warehouse nearby, cutting down on transportation emissions.

It’s art and sculpture and architecture and placemaking.
Jay Osgerby, AZ Awards 2023 Juror

This design concept is also a nod to molecular biology, as the facade’s 10,000 diamond-shaped organic modules effectively translate the concepts of molecules and cells into an architectural component. Three artists — Daniel Canogar, Esther Hunziker and Semiconductor — built upon this connection, collaborating with Novartis scientists to develop animations that play out across the building’s facade each day after sunset. Throughout the day, the scheme displays moving text.

By embracing the classic dome vernacular but carrying it in a bright, eco-friendly new direction, Novartis Pavillon underscores the ways that science and design often go hand in hand.

Team: Valentin Spiess and Nicholas Bewick with Reto Weljatschek, Michael Stucki, Christian Reimann, Erik Eggeling, Michael Lotz and Guido Tarantola

Winner: Lighting Schemes
Novartis Pavillon – Zero-Energy Media Facade

AMDL Circle and Michele De Lucchi understood that a venue dedicated to communicating the power of science ought to incorporate a few scientific breakthroughs of its own.

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2023
People’s ChoiceLighting Schemes
Location
São Paulo, Brazil
Firm
Foco Luz e Desenho, Brazil
2023
Award of MeritLighting Schemes
Location
Oslo, Norway
Firm
Licht Kunst Licht, Germany