With four million visitors annually and seen by over 60 million a year who drive past it, a new art attraction in Switzerland is destined to reach a larger public than most art museums.
The façade of the Pratteln service station near Basel has been redesigned by Jorge Pardo, a Los Angeles-based artist who won an international competition to create a work of art out of a shopping bridge across a motorway at a busy gateway to Switzerland.
Built in 1978 in a style typical of the time, the exterior had been in need of renovation. The Bon appétit Group and its subsidiary Passaggio - which run the station - wanted to enhance it with a design relating directly to its architecture and the façade, either in harmony with the main body of the structure or in contrast to it.
"The project modifies the architecture and adds interest to the motorway in a striking but not disruptive manner," said Peter Pakesch, director of Basel's Kunsthalle art museum and chairman of the competition jury.
"The competition itself sets a unique example," he added, "showing how companies can situate art in public places. This new work will undoubtedly enhance the already high standing of Switzerland as an art centre."
As for Pardo, he says he feels "pretty good" about reaching such a large public with his design. Over the next few days it is also assured of being seen by many of Europe's leading art experts, when they drive past - and perhaps visit - the Pratteln service station on their way to the annual Basel Art Fair.
by Richard Dawson