The Dreamed City of Basel

The dreamed city. (Die geträumte Stadt) is the exhibition’s title in the former monastery Klingental (Museum Kleines Klingental) in Basel.

The title is open to two interpretations. A dream can be a vision that is never realised or a dream that becomes a reality (or a nightmare).

Both possibilities apply to Basel and probably to any city. However, even the city’s constant factor, the Rhine, was not immune to city planners. In 1932, a plan was to divert the river around the town and build Rheinhatten.

The project was never realised, but it was not an unrealistic plan. The realised Juragewässerkorrektion (La correction des eaux du Jura, (see also Swiss Spectator of 16 June 2020) in the years 1868 to 1891, the partly realised canal between the Rhine and Lake Geneva ( Swiss Spectator of 9 January 2022) and the unrealised shipping route over the Gotthard ( Swiss Spectator of 22 March 2021) show the possibilities and impossibilities.

Moreover, the Rhine connects Switzerland with the Netherlands and, indirectly, Basel with Amsterdam. In Basel, there were advanced plans in the 1950-the 60s for a motorway through the old city centre. In Amsterdam, the municipality wanted a motorway straight through the city centre. Even the Rembrandt House was almost demolished.

Fortunately, however, dreams are not always deceiving. Various projects in Basel have been successfully realised. The exhibition shows this history of 150 years of plans, designs, rejections, failures, successes, referendums and realised and unrealised building projects.

The medieval town centre remains largely intact on the Münster, the Spalenberg, and the area around the Leonardskirche and St. Alban. The cathedral towers (1071, rebuilt in 1500 after the devastating earthquake of 1356) were the city’s first ‘skyscraper’. The most recent sky-high tower is the second Roche tower (2020). The first one was built in 2015.

However, the two Roche towers are rarely seen on postcards or in combination with the cathedral towers, even though they have something in common: they have an uneven height, just like the cathedral towers. Roche, however, will get its third tower in a few years. The cathedral will have certainly not.

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