Printer Friendly

Steely determination: with a seamless skin of steel, this training centre is a subtly subversive urban presence.

Reutlingen, a picturesque Swabian town near Stuttgart, is the setting for one of the most intriguing architectural and urban design projects in Germany for many years. Munich architects Allmann Sattler Wappner, known for their radical redefinition of building types, have completely shrouded their new training centre for Sudwestmetall with a 4mm stainless-steel skin. (Appropriately enough, Sudwestmetall are the German employers' association for the steel and electrical industries.) Laser-cut steel sheets, up to 1.5 X 6m in size, seamlessly cover walls, doors, windows, roofs and even the landscaped garden. Utilitarian details such as eaves, gutters or drainpipes do not impinge on the spooky purity of the abstract volumes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The scheme cunningly subverts the strict German building regulations pertaining to inner-city sites. Allmann Sattler Wappner managed to implement their radical vision by taking the simple cubic volumes and pitched roofs of the surrounding historic houses as a template. By zealously adhering to local guidelines, the architects delivered three saddle-roof buildings with small, square groundplans that blend in perfectly with the petit bourgeois neighbourhood, though there is clearly no precedent for such an enthusiastic use of steel.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The client was flabbergasted by the design which, after some initial public consternation, has attracted favourable accolades. Who could have anticipated that a competition for an unpretentious regional training centre would produce a building which employs, in such a direct way, a material so closely associated with the client? But it has other aspects, such as the shift it precipitates in the perception of a house as 'a box with a roof on' and its riff on traditional buildings and regional construction methods (for instance, the ornamental steel trelliswork). The final coup is its technical detailing, which transforms what could have so easily been an ordinary off the peg metal facade into constructional haute couture.

At first sight, the building volumes appear almost immaterial, encased in the sandblasted metal sheets that faintly reflect their surroundings. Depending on light conditions, the subtle shades of the silvery grey steel merge completely with an overcast sky. On days like these, the monoliths just vanish in a contextual mist. Only the 3164 piece puzzle of individually-cut metal sheets, which enclose the garden and the lower part of the facades in a decorative screen, provides visual animation. The upper three storeys, which include 9m high attic spaces under the saddle-roofs, gradually fade up into the sky. Most of the time the window shutters (made from the same material as the metal sheets and set flush with the facade) are closed, so the disguised apertures appear as imperceptible ripples on the metal skin. As hard as you might try to detect them, there are few gaps or details to distract from the overall impression of seamlessness. A rare example is the single 50mm expansion joint on each side of an otherwise homogeneous surface.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Clear glass bridges connect the buildings, allowing a rare, furtive glimpse of the inhabitants of the monolithic cubes. Otherwise the double facade--a fully glazed floor-to-ceiling thermal glass frame behind the metal--successfully maintains the illusion of the cubes as impenetrable, sharp-edged objects. The interior takes its cue from the exterior, with no colours other than white and various shades of grey. Excessive features and details are also ruthlessly eliminated. Steely in all senses, this is an architecture of clarity, precision and control.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
COPYRIGHT 2005 EMAP Architecture
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Brensing, Christian
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:571
Previous Article:Full metal jacket: the de Young Museum may appear tough and impenetrable, but in reality exploring its interiors is a delight; just like a wall in...
Next Article:Divine light: this chapel in Turku draws on a long tradition of remarkable Finnish churches in which religion, nature and light come together.
Topics:


Related Articles
URBAN GEOLOGY.
ROUEN'S ZENITH.
Sky station: in an attempt to tame its suburbs, Vancouver has set up an overhead rapid-transit system. Its stations are designed as memorable and...
Bay gateway: The daily grind of commuting on San Francisco's Bay Area rail system is enlivened by this new local station which forms a strong yet...
Foil to nature.
Graphic gestures: a skin of superscale graphics animates this remodelled shopping centre.
Copper in architecture awards 12.
A whiter shade of grey: as her first major public building in Europe, the Phaeno science centre in Wolfsburg represents a significant moment in the...
Suburban oasis: This new community centre in a suburb of Phoenix rejuvenates an existing park.
ADIA HQ Abu Dhabi: a new commercial headquarters for the Gulf state of Abu Dhabi synthesises tradition and modernity.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters