Laufen opens new visitor and presentation centre in Switzerland
Swiss bathroom specialist, Laufen has built a visitor and presentation centre at its headquarters in a truly unconventional Laufen Forum.
The building on Wahlenstrasse in Laufen is an impressive 6,500 cubic metre structure. Basel architects Nissen & Wentzlaff came up with the design for a two-storey building with virtually the same reinforced concrete structure throughout. Several precisely defined radii determine the building’s free-form structure. This free-form structure was implemented with the aidof computer-aided milled templates in a concrete shell. The two-storey concrete facade was cast in one mould, giving it a similar appearance throughout. The ceilings were added later on.
Viewed from the outside the building looks like a receptacle. And that is not far off the mark. When visitors walk around the building, or from a bird’s eye view, the building ultimately reveals itself to be a scaled replica of a familiar Laufen ceramic washbasin. Symbolically, the building was cast in one piece, exactly like its ceramic model. Unlike the actual product, the building does not contain water but the company’s products.
The main entrance looks onto the street and offers disabled access. Visitors are received at an info desk and then walk around and view the exhibits. Starting upstairs, visitors first discover the exhibition booths, separated by partitions. These house a permanent exhibition of Laufen designer bathrooms. Three test baths also invite visitors to take a dip. The gallery is linked to the ground floor by two staircases. More exhibition booths are located here along the outside wall and separated by retaining walls. The central atrium is an area for events and functions. Despite the hard concrete ceiling, its acoustics are good because it is partially covered by cellulose plaster. WCs, an escape stairwell and cable risers are accommodated in a separate part of the building. Storage and technical rooms are located in the basement.
The light concept for this practically windowless building is nothing short of ingenious: the skylights in the roof flood the atrium with daylight. At the same time, these light domes are positioned so that the exhibits remain unaffected when the sun moves round with the seasons. The product scenarios themselves are displayed with artificial light.The skylights also play an important role in the building’s ventilation system.
Lamellar vents are located between the retaining walls that separate the exhibition booths on the ground floor. In terms of area, their openings are identical in size to the skylights that can be opened to air the building. The skylights and lamellar vents are opened at night to allow the building to cool down. This environment-friendly air conditioning concept was based on the record temperatures experienced in the hot summer of 2003. Even in extreme weather conditions, the insulating capacities of the concrete building should ensure the temperature is pleasant. At the same time, this ventilation concept has life-saving functions in the event of fire. If fire breaks out, it reliably extracts smoke.
The insulation of the solid concrete walls satisfies Minergie standards. If required, the Laufen Forum is heated via thermoactive ceilings (TABS thermoactive component system). Controlled air conditioning of the windowless building ensures resource-saving, reliable ventilation. The air is circulated twice every hour.
Economising on space, the architects situated the new Laufen Forum on the edge of a slope. Two thirds of the building project over a car park and the structure is only supported by one single, off-centre point. As a result, the statics posed a real challenge to Basel engineering office Walther Mory Maier which also has in-depth experience in bridge construction. The reinforced concrete roof with 48 in-built skylights also proved to be a tough challenge for planners and builders alike. The 44 centimetre thick concrete cover was cast in one piece over 14 hours. It encapsulates twelve thick steel concrete bracing ropes, the supply and disposal pipes and electrical installations.
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