From storage cylinder to city icon

Nick Myall
19 Oct 2016

This adaptive reuse project shows what can be achieved when a little imagination is used to transform an old industrial building

LAVA’s winning competition entry for an energy park and energy storage building in Heidelberg, Germany for the Stadtwerke Heidelberg, will commence construction in 2017.

The existing cylindrical-shaped storage centre has been transformed into a dynamic sculpture, a city icon, a knowledge hub on sustainable energy and fully accessible to the public with city views.

LAVA assembled a Berlin-based expert team to develop the design concept including A24, White Void, Priedemann and Transsolar.

Tobias Wallisser, LAVA director, said: “Our starting point for the concept was: ‘How can the parameters of energy transition, decentralisation, networking, flexibility and adaptability be made visible in the design? How can an adaptive, dynamic system be produced without extreme technical control?’”

LAVA’s solution was a multi-layered façade structure, inspired by the geometries of nature – leaves, spider webs and reptile skins. The result is a dynamic, ever-changing surface of light and shadow, animated by wind, turning the building into a beacon of a dynamic new energy regime.

An inner shell coloured in different shades of blue wraps the building. Tilted elliptical rings positioned around the cylinder continue in the outer façade with "energy loops" circling the structure and rising dramatically to the top. A cable network between the steel rings forms the outer façade layer.

Around 20,000 diamond-shaped plates of thin stainless steel are hooked with a simple elastic connection in the meshes of this steel network allowing them to twist up to 90 degrees in the wind.

“This number of plates matches the number of households supplied with energy by the network,” said Wallisser, “a visual signifier of the impact new technology can make.”

“The complex interplay of movement, light and shadow is generated by sun and wind, with no additional energy or complicated technology required.”

At night the inner shell is illuminated in the colours blue, green and white with LED lamps mounted below the stairs. Visitors will experience this exciting place as a three-dimensional structure.

The access bridge, the facade and the transfer of knowledge elements are all designed as different sized oval-shaped steel elements with varying orientations.

Visitors will be able to receive information throughout the three-dimensional energy park, from the challenges of energy transition in the city of Heidelberg, to technical details of the utility company Stadtwerke, to renewable energy sources on site.

The thermal storage complex will be one of the tallest buildings in Heidelberg at 56m high. It will be a key component of the application of renewable energy as it compensates the gap between heat production and consumption in the city.

Wallisser added: “Our new 'knowledge repository' replaces a gas tank, which in the 1950s was a symbol of energy policy. It will be a strong symbol of the transition towards renewables.”

“The design showcases LAVA’s re-skinning research, our philosophy of ‘more with less’, and demonstrates bringing sustainable technologies alive.”

LAVA has just been named as the 2016 Laureate of the European Prize for Architecture for architects who have ‘blazoned a new path and direction for an architecture that is deeply humane and committed to forward the principles of European humanism’.

LAVA’s winning entry [and the other 13 shortlisted entries] will be on display in the IBA (International Building Exhibition) in Heidelberg, showcasing the use of sustainable energy, from 20 to 22 October 2016.

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Nick Myall

News editor

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