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Portrait of two architectural icons: The parallel paths of Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron

The scene at the Herzog & de Meuron office in Basel is not what you might envisage for a space occupied by creative minds. Rather than the usual chaos associated with imaginative brilliance, the desks here are empty – aside from a clean sketchpad, positioned with precision at a right-angle to two sharpened pencils. But Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are not your typical 'creatives': The architectural masters from Basel have built their reputation on reliability, structure and their unrelenting eye for detail. As partners in their joint venture, architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron (H&dM), the duo has become the world's most well-known architectural pair.

An unrivalled partnership with its feet on the ground

"In our efforts to do things better, our own performance is our only benchmark", explains Jacques Herzog, with complete self-assurance.
While others in his field are distant, often with a distinct air of awkwardness, this kind of comment is just the tip of the iceberg for the eloquent communicator. Herzog regularly captivates audiences with his visionary concepts and pointed opinions – on television, at opening ceremonies for various prestigious buildings, or as a member of discussion panels alongside other top-class speakers. While Herzog confidently dominates any professional debate, his long-term friend and business partner Pierre de Meuron pulls the strings in the background, ensuring that the flourishing company continues to blossom. His job at Herzog & de Meuron is to maintain a cool and collected head as he calculates budgets for building projects and negotiates with investors.  
 

H&dM: Architecture as a Swiss export

The professional harmony that is so unique to Herzog & de Meuron is the result of a long-standing friendship and partnership between the two men, which dates back to their youth.

Just ten years after founding their company back in 1978, Herzog & de Meuron hosted its first exhibition in the architectural museum in Basel, before moving onto Paris and the Venice Biennale of Architecture. Herzog and de Meuron now both hold positions as guest professors at Harvard University in the USA, and lecture in architecture at ETH Zurich, the university where they both learned their craft. The multicultural headquarters on Rheinschanze in Basel is now joined by a number of branch offices in locations such as London, New York and Hamburg. From its offices distributed across the continents, the Herzog & de Meuron team has been setting new standards in contemporary architecture for over three decades.

Inimitable style: Unique design language as a trademark

With their unique blend of experimental curiosity and intellectual creativity, the architects work harmoniously on their building projects, with each half of the partnership complementing and completing its counterpart. No concept is too crazy or too unrealistic; the pair have used their bold and adventurous spirit to innovate and develop a unique and completely original architectural design language. Although they never re-use elements of their designs, there is always a common thread and a sense of cohesion uniting the duo's works. Their courageous use of materials – and the extraordinary façade concepts that this approach produces – are the ultimate hallmarks of their buildings. 

 

Selected works by Herzog & de Meuron

Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron
Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron
 

Prestigious buildings and major projects on all continents

While the St. Jakob-Park in Basel is known for its translucent shell, the architects opted for an inflatable cushion exterior for the Allianz Arena in Munich. The design for the Olympic Stadium in Beijing was even more futuristic, with a complex nest-like lattice exterior made from welded steel beams. The pair have also had a hand in famous museum buildings such as the Tate Modern in London and the de Young Museum in San Francisco; their most recent stroke of genius was the design and planning of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg. 

An impressive collection of awards

Herzog and de Meuron have won a number of international prizes for their prestigious contracts, including the Royal Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Japanese Premium Imperial and the Nike architecture prize from the Association of German Architects (BDA).

In 2001, the company won the Pritzker Prize – which in the architectural world is widely regarded as equivalent to the Nobel Prize.

Staying true to yourself – and making brave choices

In spite of their global reputation, Herzog and de Meuron have managed to stay true to themselves and their roots. According to Herzog, every piece of architectural artistry they produce is a variation on one concept: Their task is to create buildings with a floor, a ceiling, walls, openings and light, made unique by their own design 'flavour' and materials. What changes is how the architects express their ideas through these media – and the duo have a slightly more flexible way of thinking than some of their counterparts. Herzog concludes: "We are not afraid to make brave choices".  

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