Visitors might not be able to locate the Basel office of HHF easily if it was not for the bold signage attached above the gateway leading to its inner courtyard. To locals, this site is known as the former production facility and factory shop of the popular Basel-based ice cream manufacturer Gasparini. A large shop window embedded in a brick wall that is covered with a thick coat of graphite colored paint, offers us a first glimpse of what is happening behind the scenes at HHF. Some models sit on the windowsill, a few drawings and visualizations are mounted on the walls in the back, and a set of chairs are gathered around a table as if having just been used for a meeting.
Upon passing a polished steel door plated in chrome, which mirrors both the surroundings and the waiting visitor, one enters the labyrinthic assembly of former industrial spaces. Remnants of the past – such as ceramic tiles covering some of the walls and the vaulted load bearing ceilings – are combined with newly inserted doors and partitions into a cohesive spatial setting. An all-embracing layer of white color not only helps to negotiate old and new, but also provides surfaces of inscription to be covered with ideas and work in progress.
This building is more than an office space; it’s the physical expression of HHF’s approach to architecture. Predominantly shaped by rooms that are not given over to a particular team, this office provides an infrastructure and creates an atmosphere that allow for collaborations in perpetually altering constellations. It is a large space consisting of many different work and meeting places, and a variety of diverging environments. From a homelike kitchen defined by soft lighting and a long table, to a more representative meeting room visible from outside, to an enclosed space that evokes conspirative meetings in smoky back rooms, to a small courtyard and a roof terrace that enable informal gatherings in the summertime, this locale allows the three partners of HHF and their permanent collaborators to work in an intimate studio-like atmosphere, and to seamlessly integrate and accommodate collaborating guests.
By amalgamating architectural discussion, production, and representation into a flexible spatial conglomerate, HHF has succeeded to turn the former industrial production facility into a vibrant architectural laboratory.
Text: "HHF and the Ice Cream Factory" by Reto Geiser