Station 10: klybeckplus – From industrial area to residential quarter

Once the stronghold of chemical manufacturing in Basel, the ‘Klybeckquartier’ is now undergoing change. The relocation of manufacturing has created an opportunity to redevelop the district and build a diverse range of residential and business facilities.

The silk ribbon industry established itself as one of Basel’s major economic sectors in the 17th century. Subsequently, in the 19th century, synthetic dyes became a specialty of the Basel region. This activity was the foundation stone for the development of the chemical industry and played a crucial part in shaping Basel’s economic development.

In 1859, silk manufacturer Alexander Clavel of Lyon was the first to manufacture red aniline dye, initially opening his premises at Unteren Rebgasse 22-25, near Claraplatz. The neighbors complained of the strong smells, Clavel was forced to transfer his business out of the city to the side of the Rhine, which was then a rural area between the Klybeckstrasse and the Unterem Rheinweg - the beginning of the Klybeck industrial district. In 1873, Clavel had to sell his business to chemist Robert Bindschedler and businessman Albert Busch. By 1881, Bindler & Busch was already employing 250 workers and 20 chemists.

Together with businessman Edouard Sandoz, chemist Alfred Kern – the inventor of gentian violet – founded a company in 1886 that was later to become Sandoz AG.

The intense competition between dye developers led to a spate of mergers in the dye industry. In 1884, Bindschiedler turned his business into a joint-stock company known as Gesellschaft für Chemische Industrie in Basel, which began to call itself CIBA as of 1945. It acquired a number of other companies: Gerber-Keller in 1898 and Chemische Fabrik Basel in 1908. The company’s range continued to expand, not least because it had begun producing pharmaceuticals in 1887.

In the 20th century, further large-scale mergers strengthened Basel’s status as a chemical hub:

In 1970, CIBA AG merged with J.R. Geigy AG to form Ciba-Geigy AG, which in turn merged in 1996 with Sandoz AG to form Novartis. Today, production is being increasingly relocated from Basel. The production areas are being freed up and becoming available for conversion and new building.

With an area of 300,000 m2, the Klybeck area is being repurposed under the name ‘klybeckplus’. Private investors (Rhystadt and Swiss Life) and the Canton of Basel-Stadt have signed a planning agreement and, together with professionals and input from the population, will be redeveloping the area into a diverse mixed residential and business quarter. A number of already vacant buildings are being used on a temporary basis, for instance as the event hall ‘Humbug, a space for music and all forms of live art’.

The klybeckplus vision – added value for Basel | Statement by Beat Aeberhard, Head of the cantonal Construction Department (in German)

In developing the area, klybeckplus is committed to honoring history while still looking to the future. Mixed living and new forms of coexistence are part of the plan. The different ways of life, new public facilities and attractive green and open spaces are intended to promote high-quality community living.