BOLLES + WILLSON offers Zen-like take on the big-box store
In the US big-box architecture is often an epithet for the unimaginative, crass utilitarian structures housing chain stores in suburbs. Visit one Best Buy or Wal-Mart in any US city and you’ve seen them all. These big box stores can have a negative affect on communities if the chain goes out of business as thousands of square feet are let behind sitting vacant. There’s been some interesting moves to recycle these empty big box stores into community centers and other uses, but the recession seems to be creating more empty big boxes than filling them.)
So when I read about German BOLLES + WILSON’s self-described ‘big box’ warehouse for RS + Yellow Furniture in Munster, Germany my initial reaction was, why cheer this?
Then I saw the stripes on the facade (love the stripes) and how the architect incorporated a lovely lake on the roof for a very Zen-like experience (certainly not the typical shopping experience at a big box store or industrial feel of a warehouse).
This is the third BOLLES+WILSON building for the German furniture chain RS+Yellow, and is a 7,000 sq. f. expansion of the storage and distribution centre. The new rectangular building is adjacent to the original 1992 corrugated aluminum warehouse.
The 60m by 66 m, two-storey ‘Big-Box’ is (as is usual for industrial architecture) is reduced to a regular grid of pre-cast columns and wide span floor slabs. Facades are a standard lightweight concrete system. To make the building seem more vertical, the structure has pyjama colour stripes interspersed with zinc coated grid stripes. These absorb all windows and necessary smoke outlets into an uninterrupted colour curtain.
This warehouse and even perhaps the 1,500 sq. m. of offices above the delivery bays are fairly conventional. The big surprise is with the rooftop meeting rooms and executive offices where the roof of the building has been flooded with a 45m by 65 m reflecting pool. The edge detail, laser leveled into invisibility, increases the reflection. Underwater compartments eliminate the risk of floods. Overrun is collected in edge channels and channeled to an internal cistern.
A wooden boardwalk leads to the sliding glass façade while a pier extends from the center of the lake. Instead of standing in a sea of an asphalt car park, one can sit surrounded by geometric groves of bamboo. From here the south-facing glass front of the roof pavilion reflects again the water. A projecting steel pergola and a curtain of louvers descending at the press of a button from its outer edge shades the facade.
With examples like this, perhaps BOLLES + WILLSON will begin to turn ‘big-box store,’ from an insult to a complement.