The future is crystal clear...

Friday 21 Sep 2012

New landmark building for Siemens creates the world’s largest exhibition dedicated to the sustainable future of cities

A Sustainable Cities Initiative by Siemens, conceived by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, has recently opened in London. The Crystal is a dramatic form with a glazed structure, creating a new independent global hub for debates on sustainable urban living and development. 

Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will is the lead consultant and interior architect; Wilkinson Eyre Associates is the shell and core architect; Event Communications designed the exhibition space; ISG was responsible for the construction; Turner & Townsend provided project management, cost management and CDM coordinator services.

The space within houses exhibition spaces, conference facilities and a technology and innovation centre. The architects designed the building to achieve the highest international sustainability credentials for a building (BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum).

The structure is located by the Royal Victoria Dock, adjacent to the Emirates Air Line cable car, also designed by the architects. It will be home to Siemens' global Centre of Competence Cities, a team of multi-disciplinary urban experts, which aims to encourage the growth of sustainable cities through partnerships, research and expert collaboration.

In addition to this, The Crystal will house the world's largest exhibition on the future of cities. The interactive exhibition will guide visitors through the urban infrastructure of the future, focusing on possibilities for sustainable mobility, building technologies, power and water supplies, and healthcare.

Conceived by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, the form draws inspiration from the form of a crystal. The crystalline geometry of the architecture forms a series of angular shapes, creating a distinctive architectural focal point for the area. As the building occupies a prominent space, it has been designed as 'a pavilion in a park'.

The design does not have front and back facades or a traditionally defined roof. Instead it has been conceived as a set of facets which creates a striking impression when viewed from street level and when seen from above.

The envelope of the crystal-shaped design aims to both reflect the building's context whilst also having a degree of transparency to help connect the building with its surroundings. This careful use of translucent and mainly opaque glazing has been designed to minimise the running costs of the building.

The angularity of the external skin of the building makes for interesting and varied interior spaces, designed by PBP+W. Making up the exhibition spaces is a large mezzanine with a sensory film experience theatre contained within a white curved fabric shape, which contrasts the bright red shell of the auditorium on the opposite side of the street. 

With Arup leading on the environmental engineering of the project, the Crystal has been designed to embrace certain technical themes including: an all-electric and consumes no fossil fuels on site and a progressive water agenda with rainwater being harvested and cleaned to drinking quality. 

Jessica Tang,

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