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01| The Westside Shopping and Leisure Center, The Shopping Centre full of visitors, Photograph by (c) bitterbredt
02| The Westside Shopping and Leisure Center, Photograph by (c) bitterbredt
03| The Westside Shopping and Leisure Center, Westside over the A1 Highway, Photograph by (c) bitterbredt
04| Daniel Libeskind, Photograph by llan Besor
The Westside Shopping and Leisure Center:
Destination within a Destination
Spanning over 120 000 square meters, The Westside Shopping and Leisure Center is more than a site for recreation—it is
a city unto itself. At the time of its inception in 2005, it was
the largest private construction site in Switzerland. Located
in Bern-Brünnen, the award-winning design includes 55 shops, 10 restaurants and bars, a bath, a hotel, a multiplex cinema, a senior residence, a wellness center, and a number
of apartments. The mix of services ensures that the center
is active both day and night. Libeskind got the idea from an unlikely source—the Marx Brothers. He explains, “Westside was actually inspired by the 1941 Marx Brothers‘ film The Big Store. They move into a store, and after the store closes, they start using the beds and the kitchen. I thought, ‘This is the right idea.’ People should live there. It shouldn’t be just an abstract experience. People should own it —emotionally and intellectually. They should feel that this is their home.”
Westside was conceived in a design scheme called “Nexus,” the Latin word for “connection.” It operates as an independent
city connected to the outside environment, but is also self- sufficiently organized. Linked to the tram and the BERNMOBIL transport network, Westside also has its own completely integrated traffic and parking system. It claims prime real estate just above the A1 highway, creating a wide gateway into the city. It is also artfully integrated into the surrounding climate with natural effects like a multi-layered Robinia wood façade that mirrors the rural countryside to the west.
The ground plan features hard right angles that are softened by inclined walls. There are upper and lower rooms plastered in white, open alleys, and two plazas that mark the passage of time with shadows from their roof cuts. One plaza represents the day, and opens to the landscape and the bath. The other is the night, connecting to both the cinema and hotel and offering space for dining and other nightlife. Crystal blocks
in the shopping center function as vertical platforms, rising through the straight right angles to welcome natural light. The building features a variety of partly dark, tanned window cuts as well. At night these light up, so the building fades away and the cuts become the design.

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