Basel 2018

Visiting all the musuems.

3 days ― July 2018

Part 1: A weekend in Basel

I’d flown via Basel to visit a local music festival in France (Les Eurockéennes), so it seemed a good place to stop off for a few days. Like most things Swiss, it runs very well - transport was easy, and there’s plenty to do.

A panorama of the Rhine taken from the middle of a bridge.
A photo of a zebra crossing in Basel.
A photo of tram tracks and painted white stripes on a stretch of road.
A photo of the frosted glass garage door of a fire station. There's a sign that reads 'feuerwehr' (fire department), and a symbol with a red no entry sign.
A panorama taken from a bridge over the Rhine at nighttime. There are buildings in the distance lit up and lights reflected in the water.

Swimming in the Rhine #

If there’s one thing everyone should do in Basel it’s to swim in the Rhine. Without a doubt one of the best things I’ve ever done. You put all your belongings in a dry bag, jump in upstream, and then float towards the city centre. There’s lots of places to get out and have a beer whilst you dry off. The water was warm (ish!) and crystal clear. I plan to go back to Basel just so I can have this amazing experience again. I was slightly nervous putting my dslr and passport in the dry-bag, but they were fine.

A photo of two dry bags on the floor.
A photo of Ed Horsford swimming in the Rhine

Visiting all the museums #

Basel has a great collection of museums to explore. They’re also rather pricey. I bought a museums pass (hint: cheaper in nearby Germany) to get access to the lot for the next year. It worked out about the same as buying tickets for just the places I was interested in, but this way I got to go to other museums I wouldn’t have otherwise visited, and hundreds more in Switzerland, Germany, and France are included too.

In two days I visited:

Basel Historical museum #

The Basel Historical museum had various dioramas of the type I remember seeing in natural history museums of my childhood. What stood out for me were the displays they’d set up showing how they construct the dioramas. Including various models in different stages of completion.

A photo of a display case showing many small models of people and various tools. The models are for use in historical dioramas.
A display case shows some of the techniques used by the Basel Historical museum to construct their dioramas.

Basel paper museum #

The paper museum was an unexpected delight. I wish I’d had more time to explore. It covers paper-making, printing, binding, and so much more. As a type geek it was great to see their collection of movable type machines and other printing presses.

Macro photo of a roll of paper with small holes punched out of it. The roll is being fed through some machinery.
A craftsman makes a piece of movable type.

Pharmacy museum #

A display case in the Pharmacy museum in Basel. Many small specimens can be seen on each shelf.
Several specimens in glass jars in a display case at the Pharmacy museum in Basel.

Kunstmuseum Basel #

The Kunstmuseum's subtle yet striking signage.

The Kunstmuseum’s facade signage worked brilliantly. Subtle, yet strong enough to read in bright sunlight. Read more about it here.

A circular skylight. The surrounding ceiling and walls are dark concrete.
Photo of a light sculpture by Dan Flavin in the Kunstmuseum. The sculpture is a long fluorescent bulb stretching between two walls in the corner of a room. The bulb is the only source of light, and gives of a blue and white light.
untitled, 1969, by Dan Flavin


Part 2: Museum Tinguely

Jean Tinguely grew up in Basel, and as a result you can come across his sculptures all across the city, with a dedicated museum in the east of the city. It was my standout museum of the many I visited.

The museum is a perfect stop before a short walk to the river and a swim down the Rhine.

Wide photo of pale green room with several red mechanical sculptures in the middle.
Plateau agriculturel, 1978, by Jean Tinguely

The museum has a great collection of exhibits, many of them interactive. Big buttons adorn the floor letting you animate them in unexpected ways. I also have to give great credit to the staff - who were super friendly and encouraged people to explore / take photos / point out things they’d miss. It must be quite a zoo when school kids are visiting.

A large mechanical metal sculpture in a room - made from several car parts.
Pit-Stop, 1984, by Jean Tinguely
A dark room filled with many eery metallic sculptures by Jean Tinguely.
Mengele – danse macabre, 1986, by Jean Tinguely
Miostar No. 2, 1974, by Jean Tinguely
unknown, by Jean Tinguely
Frigo Duchamp, 1960, by Jean Tinguely

Too early to Panic #

Museum Tinguely had a temporary exhibit by Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger. A mix of hallucinogenic displays and interactive experiences. It reminded me of some of the weirder bits of Secret Cinema.

A photo of two light panels displaying photos of microscopic objects.
Part of the exhibition 'Too early to Panic', by Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger
A close photo of a model of a lizard with flowers growing out of it's back.
Part of the exhibition 'Too early to Panic', by Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger
Many brightly coloured abstract forms are suspended from the ceiling of a pale blue room.
Part of the exhibition 'Too early to Panic', by Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger


Part 3: Walking the Rehberger way

A half hour outside Basel lies the Vitra Campus. It’s part factory, part museum, part showroom. Between there and Basel you can walk the Rehberger Way - a pleasant walk following the countryside and dotted with 24 sculptures.

Facing straight on a rectangular fountain in an open air square. There's four flags on the right hand side.
A view inside an art installation at the Vitra Design Museum. There's mirrors ahead and on the sides creating an infinite loop. The room is dark, but small squares of light repeat.
Looking towards a window inside the Vitra showroom. The room has a profile like a house with a pointed roof. Inside the room is a long table and bench.

Be wary visiting Vitra’s showroom - you’ll end up lusting after far too many things you don’t need.

A photo taken from the courtyard of the Vitra Design Museum showroom.
Inside the Vitra Design Museum archive. The room is brightly lit with aluminium shelves on each side receding in to the distance. On the shelves are many different chairs.
A detail shot of an unfinished metallic form of a Konstantin Grcic chair. The form is made of metal struts connected together with waste metal from the mould still visible.
A photo of a sculpture in a field. It consists of 12 poles emerging from the earth and pointing upwards. They're arranged in a row, and are coloured like a rainbow, from green to blue, red, and yellow.

The Rehberger Way made for a lovely afternoon walk. Modernist, brightly coloured, angular. It’s a pity they don’t credit the artists involved on the website.

A viewing platform in Bauhaus style.
Looking down a field of vines in rows.
A photo of a corner of a building with a mural on the side. There's a small monkey-puzzle tree in front.