Contract - Vital Mission: Behnisch Architekten designs a state-of-the-art headquarters for Unilever

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Vital Mission: Behnisch Architekten designs a state-of-the-art headquarters for Unilever

01 May, 2010

-By Danine Alati



Created by British soap-maker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie in 1930, consumer goods corporation Unilever is well known in the United States as the owner of a host of brands—from Lipton, Hellman’s, and Ben & Jerry’s to Dove, Vaseline, and Calvin Klein Cosmetics. Now the corporation, with head offices in Rotterdam and London, is trying to make a greater impact in Germany with a striking new office, designed by Behnisch Architekten on a harbor in Hamburg.

Set on the banks of the River Elbe at the end of an urban axis extending from the city center, the Unilever headquarters for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland was designed to reflect the company’s “vitality mission,” fostering vibrant communication and interaction in a building that reflects the company’s sustainability initiatives and embraces the surrounding community.

With a design heavily informed by its riverside site, the structure references a maritime theme. Its glazed double façade, made of a lightweight second skin of Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) film, exudes a sense of transparency, welcoming the public and affording employees views of both the city and the river. “The site itself is the most important resource in making this building attractive to the public,” notes Martin Haas, BDA, partner at Behnisch Architekten, based in Stuttgart, Germany. “It’s free of the typical restrictions of an office building. And Unilever knew if the building were more accessible to the public, the company would be more well-known by the public.”

A series of city-facing terraces attract visitors, leading them through the central atrium and out to the waterfront promenade. The ground floor of the six-story atrium at the core houses public and private functions, including public a café, spa, and shop selling Unilever products, and a test kitchen and restaurant reserved for employees only. The atrium maintains the light, airy, transparency of the interiors, and offers areas that encourage spontaneous interaction. “Unilever had the platform to make the company not only open and more visible, but also to foster communication,” explains Haas. ”So we developed the idea of connection through the atrium, set up like a little city with the idea of spatial expression via bridges and ramps.”

A series of neighborhoods, or Meeting Points, are connected via crosswalks and shortcuts to make the spacious atrium feel less vast. These Meeting Points serve as a means to access work areas and contain central office facilities. An open office layout surrounding the atrium offers all employees views from their workspaces into the atrium or out to Hamburg or the river, and thanks to the atrium, natural light penetrates to work areas. A series of gigantic light rings stacked in the atrium helps reflect natural light by prism surfaces augmented by LED.next technology—which is literally the next phase in energy-efficient LED lighting technology, developed by Nimbus Lighting.

While the atrium feels very white and bright, capped with a glass ceiling and bathed in sunlight, punches of color differentiate zones. With the palette based on Unilever’s brand palette, green is the primary color, supplemented with other vibrant tones and bold graphic accents in abstracted forms of the sun, hearts, flowers, and birds that reflect the corporation’s revamped 75th anniversary logo, introduced five years ago. Workspaces offer surprise pops of hot pink, citrine orange, sunny yellow, and green chartreuse, and orange laser-cut-metal patterns spice up a series of conference rooms. “We did not use trend colors,” Haas explains. “But instead, we linked this atmosphere to green—in the tradition of it being bright and inviting—and added our own scheme of complementary colors to create interest.”

With eco-conscious principles at the heart of Unilever’s mission, its headquarters is not green in color palette alone. Unilever commissioned Behnisch Architekten in part for its environmentally sustainable design savvy, which helped the building achieve the newly established HafenCity EcoLabel in Gold (comparable to the USGBC’s LEED Gold). In order to create a daylight-optimized building, the architects developed a highly efficient solar shading system with a single-layer film façade in front of the building’s insulation fenestration. The second skin of ETFE film protects the office areas from drafts and the blinds from wind, and the air-filled space between layers of the façade are used for window ventilation, as all workers enjoy operable windows. Other sustainable strategies include a cooling system through thermally activated, reinforced concrete ceilings with water flowing through them; a hybrid ventilation system that filters air via a compressed air floor; and heat exchangers near the roof that recover warmth without energy loss. Waterless urinals and a greywater system reduce water consumption.

“The client was very keen on creating a benchmark of sustainability,” Haas says. “Workers spend eight to 10 hours in this building, and Unilever wanted us to consider the well-being of the end users when designing their work areas. The goal was to create a better office for them and in turn a better life.”


who
Developer: HOCHTIEF Projektentwicklung. Architect, interior designer: Behnisch Architekten; Stefan Behnisch, Hon. FAIA, BDA, RIBA, partner; Martin Haas, BDA, partner; David Cook, RIBA, ARB, partner; Peter Schlaier, project leader; Stephan Zemmrich, project architect; Andreas Leupold, project team; Irina Martaler, project team; Eckart Schwerdtfeger, project team; Dennis Wirth, project team; Andreas Peyker, project team; Mandana Alimardani, project team; Jens Berghaus, project team.Structural engineer: Weber Poll Ingenieure für Bauwesen. Mechanical/Electrical engineer: HKP Ingenieure GmbH. Construction Supervisor: 360grad+. Lighting designer: Licht 01 Lighting Design. Acoustician: ITA Weimar. Furniture dealer: Gärtner Internationale Möbel für Büro und Wohnen GmbH. Photographers: Adam Mørk, arkitekt maa; Frank Ockert, OCKERTUNDPARTNER; Sabine Vielmo, Lindenallee.

what
Wallcoverings: Heraklith. Dry wall: Lafarge. Masonry: Kalksandstein. Flooring: Lindner Group. Carpet/carpet tile: Finett. Ceiling: Lafarge. Lighting: Nimbus Group. Doors: Lindner Group; Hörmann KG. Door hardware: FSB. Window frames/wall systems: Lindner Group; Bene AGl. Workstations: Steelcase Werndl AG. Workstation seating: Knoll International. Lounge seating: Cappellini; Fritz Hansen (vintage). Cafeteria, dining, auditorium seating: Arper, Thonet, Vitra. Other seating: Magis, Sixinch. Upholstery: Cor. Conference table: Vitra; Bene. Cafeteria, dining, training tables, architectural woodworking: custom-made. Files, shelving: Steelcase. Cabinetmaking: custom-made. Planters, accessories: CSD-Hydrokulturen. Signage: sis sign information systems gmbh. Elevators: Schindler.

where
Location: Hamburg, Germany. Total floor area: 408,889 sq. ft./gross; 258,240 sq. ft./net. No. of floors: 6. Total staff size: 1,200.



Vital Mission: Behnisch Architekten designs a state-of-the-art headquarters for Unilever

01 May, 2010


Adam Mørk, Frank Ockert, and Sabine Vielmo

Created by British soap-maker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie in 1930, consumer goods corporation Unilever is well known in the United States as the owner of a host of brands—from Lipton, Hellman’s, and Ben & Jerry’s to Dove, Vaseline, and Calvin Klein Cosmetics. Now the corporation, with head offices in Rotterdam and London, is trying to make a greater impact in Germany with a striking new office, designed by Behnisch Architekten on a harbor in Hamburg.

Set on the banks of the River Elbe at the end of an urban axis extending from the city center, the Unilever headquarters for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland was designed to reflect the company’s “vitality mission,” fostering vibrant communication and interaction in a building that reflects the company’s sustainability initiatives and embraces the surrounding community.

With a design heavily informed by its riverside site, the structure references a maritime theme. Its glazed double façade, made of a lightweight second skin of Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) film, exudes a sense of transparency, welcoming the public and affording employees views of both the city and the river. “The site itself is the most important resource in making this building attractive to the public,” notes Martin Haas, BDA, partner at Behnisch Architekten, based in Stuttgart, Germany. “It’s free of the typical restrictions of an office building. And Unilever knew if the building were more accessible to the public, the company would be more well-known by the public.”

A series of city-facing terraces attract visitors, leading them through the central atrium and out to the waterfront promenade. The ground floor of the six-story atrium at the core houses public and private functions, including public a café, spa, and shop selling Unilever products, and a test kitchen and restaurant reserved for employees only. The atrium maintains the light, airy, transparency of the interiors, and offers areas that encourage spontaneous interaction. “Unilever had the platform to make the company not only open and more visible, but also to foster communication,” explains Haas. ”So we developed the idea of connection through the atrium, set up like a little city with the idea of spatial expression via bridges and ramps.”

A series of neighborhoods, or Meeting Points, are connected via crosswalks and shortcuts to make the spacious atrium feel less vast. These Meeting Points serve as a means to access work areas and contain central office facilities. An open office layout surrounding the atrium offers all employees views from their workspaces into the atrium or out to Hamburg or the river, and thanks to the atrium, natural light penetrates to work areas. A series of gigantic light rings stacked in the atrium helps reflect natural light by prism surfaces augmented by LED.next technology—which is literally the next phase in energy-efficient LED lighting technology, developed by Nimbus Lighting.

While the atrium feels very white and bright, capped with a glass ceiling and bathed in sunlight, punches of color differentiate zones. With the palette based on Unilever’s brand palette, green is the primary color, supplemented with other vibrant tones and bold graphic accents in abstracted forms of the sun, hearts, flowers, and birds that reflect the corporation’s revamped 75th anniversary logo, introduced five years ago. Workspaces offer surprise pops of hot pink, citrine orange, sunny yellow, and green chartreuse, and orange laser-cut-metal patterns spice up a series of conference rooms. “We did not use trend colors,” Haas explains. “But instead, we linked this atmosphere to green—in the tradition of it being bright and inviting—and added our own scheme of complementary colors to create interest.”

With eco-conscious principles at the heart of Unilever’s mission, its headquarters is not green in color palette alone. Unilever commissioned Behnisch Architekten in part for its environmentally sustainable design savvy, which helped the building achieve the newly established HafenCity EcoLabel in Gold (comparable to the USGBC’s LEED Gold). In order to create a daylight-optimized building, the architects developed a highly efficient solar shading system with a single-layer film façade in front of the building’s insulation fenestration. The second skin of ETFE film protects the office areas from drafts and the blinds from wind, and the air-filled space between layers of the façade are used for window ventilation, as all workers enjoy operable windows. Other sustainable strategies include a cooling system through thermally activated, reinforced concrete ceilings with water flowing through them; a hybrid ventilation system that filters air via a compressed air floor; and heat exchangers near the roof that recover warmth without energy loss. Waterless urinals and a greywater system reduce water consumption.

“The client was very keen on creating a benchmark of sustainability,” Haas says. “Workers spend eight to 10 hours in this building, and Unilever wanted us to consider the well-being of the end users when designing their work areas. The goal was to create a better office for them and in turn a better life.”


who
Developer: HOCHTIEF Projektentwicklung. Architect, interior designer: Behnisch Architekten; Stefan Behnisch, Hon. FAIA, BDA, RIBA, partner; Martin Haas, BDA, partner; David Cook, RIBA, ARB, partner; Peter Schlaier, project leader; Stephan Zemmrich, project architect; Andreas Leupold, project team; Irina Martaler, project team; Eckart Schwerdtfeger, project team; Dennis Wirth, project team; Andreas Peyker, project team; Mandana Alimardani, project team; Jens Berghaus, project team.Structural engineer: Weber Poll Ingenieure für Bauwesen. Mechanical/Electrical engineer: HKP Ingenieure GmbH. Construction Supervisor: 360grad+. Lighting designer: Licht 01 Lighting Design. Acoustician: ITA Weimar. Furniture dealer: Gärtner Internationale Möbel für Büro und Wohnen GmbH. Photographers: Adam Mørk, arkitekt maa; Frank Ockert, OCKERTUNDPARTNER; Sabine Vielmo, Lindenallee.

what
Wallcoverings: Heraklith. Dry wall: Lafarge. Masonry: Kalksandstein. Flooring: Lindner Group. Carpet/carpet tile: Finett. Ceiling: Lafarge. Lighting: Nimbus Group. Doors: Lindner Group; Hörmann KG. Door hardware: FSB. Window frames/wall systems: Lindner Group; Bene AGl. Workstations: Steelcase Werndl AG. Workstation seating: Knoll International. Lounge seating: Cappellini; Fritz Hansen (vintage). Cafeteria, dining, auditorium seating: Arper, Thonet, Vitra. Other seating: Magis, Sixinch. Upholstery: Cor. Conference table: Vitra; Bene. Cafeteria, dining, training tables, architectural woodworking: custom-made. Files, shelving: Steelcase. Cabinetmaking: custom-made. Planters, accessories: CSD-Hydrokulturen. Signage: sis sign information systems gmbh. Elevators: Schindler.

where
Location: Hamburg, Germany. Total floor area: 408,889 sq. ft./gross; 258,240 sq. ft./net. No. of floors: 6. Total staff size: 1,200.
 


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