Swiss healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech giant Roche has a new addition to its campus in Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany, right on the bank of the Rhine River: FRITZ, an interior column-free flexible office building designed by Swiss practice Christ & Gantenbein.
FRITZ, completed in September and named after Roche’s founder, Fritz Hoffmann, is a radical departure from the other buildings on the multinational’s Grenzach-Wyhlen campus. The five-story office complex, at least from the outside, takes strong cues from its surrounding International Style and modern counterparts, presenting a strong but clean facade of floor-to-ceiling glass banded by aluminum mullions and transoms. Rather than going with a sheer glass wall, Christ & Gantenbein extruded those elements to create a texture along the surface reminiscent of what the firm described as an “industrial palazzo.”
Inside, devoid of view-blocking interior columns, all five floors of FRITZ are entirely open, with glass-enclosed conference rooms allowing light to permeate through unobstructed. This was achieved by routing all of the building’s circulation (and structural support) to the four corners. Although Christ & Gantenbein continued the midcentury modern styling within with coffered concrete ceilings, the ample floor-to-floor heights and natural light prevent the open-plan office floors from feeling too claustrophobic. The 107,600-square-foot office cube features 300 flexible and 100 permanent workstations.
With FRITZ envisioned as both a hierarchy-free collaborative workspace and the new community-facing gateway to the formerly cloistered Roche campus, it also contains the central reception area, a cafe and restaurant, and inclusive gathering spaces. That includes the two-story “Forum,” a 550-seat assembly hall at ground level that can be subdivided into thirds and easily rearranged to host training workshops, talks, or any other use the company might have for it.
Above that, floors three through five mix flexible workstations with conference rooms, modular creative labs, “Forest Circles” centrally located for gathering, communal tables, and other features intended to foster spontaneous interactions while co-working.
Although Christ & Gantenbein designed a reserved office building with industrial touches, the interior decoration both departs from and pays homage to the concept. All of the furniture was custom built by the Basel-based INCHfurniture, and playfully departs from the glass, concrete, and metal aesthetic with pink plastic, exposed plywood sheets, moveable pink terrazzo meeting steps, and colorfully upholstered midcentury modern chairs. The palette is seemingly more refined at ground level, employing a range of dark blue shades, but the overall effect is intended to help Roche employees stay relaxed and encourage hybrid working—FRITZ isn’t set up for workers to hunker down at their desks all day. Although FRITZ was first envisioned in 2017 and broke ground in 2018, its completion mid-pandemic is fortuitous as workspaces can easily be reconfigured to account for those who would rather work from home, while still allowing for digital collaboration between the two groups.
“What we see at FRITZ is a working environment that is open and generous, but also leaves space to retreat,” said Hagen Pfundner, CEO of Roche Pharma AG, in a press statement. “This creates an atmosphere in which our employees can fully exploit their creative potential.”