Even from far away, the new sculpture in the office complex “die welle” draws attention to itself, inviting further exploration. It is an attraction that promotes the urban integration of the office complex within the adjacent inner city district.
The project remit was to redesign the external landscaped area in order to enhance the office complex "die welle“, located close to the Alte Oper in Frankfurt am Main. It was the name of the complex that sparked the initial idea for schneider+schumacher’s design. The architects decided to take this concept further and at the same time, to explore it in more depth: in the form of a three-dimensional wave that not only defines the space and attracts attention, but also creates an inviting place where people will want to be, therefore revitalizing the area. “When we see something onto which we can project our own images, experiences and memories, it conjures up associations and emotions. It awakens our interest”, explains Prof. Michael Schumacher, who, together with Till Schneider, runs the architectural practice schneider+schumacher.
From “diving arch” to “chill-out wave“
The resulting aluminium sculpture consists of six elements that flow, wave-like, through the entire length of space that runs between the main buildings. Three of these elements prise themselves away from the floor as arches of differing heights. Arriving from the Opernplatz, a “diving arch”, some seven metres in height first appears followed by the “glorious arch”, nearly eighteen metres high, which twists to form a semi-circular arena.
A few metres on, the aluminium sculpture somersaults into a seven metre-high “joyful wave” before continuing more calmly as “flowing wave 1 and 2”, and then petering out in a last “chill-out wave”.
A new light-coloured asphalt floor surface running through the site further underpins the wave concept, and it appears to be a liquid, following its natural course. In a similar vein, and in keeping with the context, schneider+schumacher created four benches. Each one is made out a single straight piece of wood, which, owing to the way it is notched, can be bent into a wave-like form.
From sketch, via screen, to sculpture
In the design process, certain geometric rules had to be followed to allow the shapes of the arches and edges to be later manufactured. This meant employing a parametric system, to transform the initial sketch on paper into a geometric form, so that it could be more easily implemented in practice. Using a computer programme, this parametric design meant that the building elements could be optimised and then tested, to check how they affected the system as a whole. This resulted in a detailed construction plan, which formed the basis for the ensuing crafting process.
100 tonnes of aluminium, two kilometres of welded seams
The entire finished sculpture comprises two kilometres of welded seams that all in all weighs around 100 tonnes. A special process had to be developed so that the seams could be welded on one side only, without causing any distortion.
This redesign is another example of the architectural office’s “pragmatic poetry” design philosophy, which thrives on clarity of construction, an earnest approach to solving the architectural brief, and a delight in good detailing.
Client: AXA Investment Managers – Real Assets
Gross floor area: about 6.160 m²
Planning and construction dates: 11/2013 - 04/2016
Workmanship sculptures: Arnold AG
Structure Planning: B+G Ingenieur Bollinger und Grohmann GmbH
Landscape Design: KLA kiparlandschaftsarchitekten GmbH
Till Schneider and Michael Schumacher set up schneider+schumacher in Frankfurt in 1988. Their legendary Info-Box in Berlin, built shortly after reunification on what was the largest building site in Europe at the time, brought the office worldwide recognition. Since then the office has planned over 100 buildings, urban projects and countless product designs. Their projects range from housing to industrial buildings, from a motorway church to a skyscraper and a museum to a particle accelerator. With its approach of a “pragmatic poetry” schneider+schumacher could win prestigious international prizes.
Recently not one but two projects have been named a winner in the first annual AAP American Architecture Prize, in the category "Cultural Architecture": The spectacular and yet sensitive extension to the Städel Museum received a Platinum award and the Autobahn Church Siegerland achieved Gold. schneider+schumacher has thus captured the two highest places in a total of eleven awards presented to projects in this category.
Prize-winning schemes for urban planning and architecture are the Westhafen in Frankfurt, and the sustainable reconstructed high-rise building Silvertower. A recent project is the new Justice Center in Shenzhen. Its volume is composed of two stacked and by 90 degrees twisted boxes.
The office of schneider+schumacher is organized as individual units – architecture, building and project management, design, parametrics and urban planning – cooperating closely together under one roof. The main office is situated in Frankfurt, with further offices located in Vienna/Austria, Tianjin/China and Shanghai/China.