LAEP Lecture Series: Dorothée Imbert

Lecture | November 5 | 6-7 p.m. | 112 Wurster Hall

 College of Environmental Design

Date: Monday, November 5th 2018

Location: 112 Wurster Auditorium

Lecture: 6:00pm

Discussion: 7:00pm - 7:30pm

Dorothée Imbert is the inaugural Hubert C. Schmidt ’38 Chair and head of landscape architecture at The Ohio State University. Prior to joining OSU, Imbert established the Master of Landscape Architecture program at Washington University in St. Louis, taught at Harvard University, and practiced at Peter Walker and Partners. She has lectured and written extensively on landscape modernism. She is the author of the books The Modernist Garden in France, Garrett Eckbo: Modern Landscapes for Living (with Marc Treib), and Between Garden and City: Landscape Modernism and Jean Canneel-Claes, and the editor of the volume Food and the City: Histories of Culture and Cultivation. She is currently finishing the book Landscape Inventories: Michel Desvigne Paysagiste. Imbert has served on numerous boards and juries, including Dumbarton Oaks and the Society of Architectural Historians. In 2016, she organized the international symposium “THIS IS A TEST: Landscape as Site for Research” at Ohio State’s Knowlton School and Wexner Center for the Arts. She continues to engage in research and design practice and recently completed the Square (with Andrew Cruse), a landscape on structure for the Novartis campus in Basel, Switzerland.


The Square, Novartis Campus, Basel, Switzerland, Good Form Studio

The Square and Pavilion are the latest additions to the Novartis Campus in Basel, Switzerland. Designed by Good Form Studio—jointly led by Assistant Professor of Architecture Andrew Cruse and Professor of Landscape Architecture and Section Head Dorothée Imbert—the project seamlessly merges architectural and landscape interventions to create a new type of workspace for Novartis employees. The campus masterplan, devised by Italian architect Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, has transformed a site of pharmaceutical production into a hub for research, and in doing so has created a showcase of contemporary architecture and landscape. Research and office buildings by Seijima & Nishizawa (SANAA), Frank O. Gehry, David Chipperfield, and Herzog & de Meuron address plazas, and parks by Peter Walker, Günther Vogt, and Kathryn Gustafson, to name a few.

Responding to the master plan’s open-space strategy, the Square and Pavilion create medium- and small-scale spaces to complement existing larger ones. The two-acre Square sits above an underground bicycle garage (designed by Swiss architect Marco Serra) and offers distinct experiences both indoors and out. To the north is an expansive gravel court defined by the horizontal canopy of a quincunx grove of linden and plane trees interspersed with flowering cherries. To the south, a wide wood boardwalk links the western part of the campus to the Rhine River to the east, and offers a viewing platform to the circular garden rooms beyond. These rooms are defined by tall clipped hornbeam hedges, and alternate with dense masses of yews to create a layered composition. “As you look at the hedge rooms from outside, the overlap between their individual forms creates perceptual ambiguity, and suggests a deeper space,” Imbert said. “In the winter, the filigree structure of the hornbeam branches contrasts with the dark density of the yews, highlighting the void of the rooms and the solidity of the blobs.” Spaces inside the hedge rooms create a sense of enclosure and privacy. Furnished with chairs and tables, they can be used by small groups for informal meetings.

The Pavilion is surrounded by low-iron glass, and visually merges space of the quincunx. The height of its narrow parapet matches that of the surrounding tree canopy. The parapet conceals the Pavilion’s structure and hardware for the one-by-three-meter glass panels, which hang without edge connections. These panels can slide and stack to create wide openings in good weather. Exterior retractable roof shades help to maintain a comfortable climate inside the pavilion during warmer months. As the temperature drops, the panels are closed to trap warm air within the pavilion. Cables supporting bignonia vines create a light green ceiling that mirrors the leafy canopy of the quincunx, further contributing to the continuity between interior and exterior spaces. The Pavilion is a unique in-between space on campus that can be used during swing seasons and in inclement weather. “It provides a warmer space when it’s cool, and an outdoor space when it’s raining or snowing. It can also house a temporary café or buvette, as well as serve as a venue for events,” Cruse explained. In a fundamental way, this project is an extension of Cruse’s research on the connections between architecture, climate and energy: “The Novartis Campus project relates to work that I’ve been engaged with at the Knowlton School: making spaces that provide types of comfort that you wouldn’t typically expect, whether you are inside or outside of a building.”