• Designing a Welcoming Yet Invisible Building

    A building both marvelous and discrete. How to? The listed parliament building of the German state Baden-Württemberg from 1961 needed an extension for visitors, and the extension had to fit in effortlessly with three different ages in time. A challenge, as Partner and Managing Director of our Munich office, Werner Frosch, explains. 

  • What were the main challenges with designing this extension?

    The greatest challenge was to integrate the new building into the setting of listed architectural elements from different time zones – the building of the state parliament from 1961, the more than 600-year-old history of the adjacent palace garden and the academy garden. Moreover, the city of Stuttgart insisted on a new building, which should not disturb this listed ensemble and therefore should be planned under the surface. Creating an attractive and inspiring building, which is almost invisible but welcoming at the same time was our greatest task.

    What were your sources of inspiration?

    Since the design is for the parliament, democracy is a key symbol that we wanted to use. Going back in history, ancient Greece comes automatically into mind as an era with a high impact on democratic architecture. The agora is known as a market place promoting public gatherings and political discussions. We wanted to do a modern interpretation of the ancient agora as an open event space. It turned out as not only an entrance to the underground spaces, but a welcoming place to relax in the academy garden and gather for cultural and political exchanges. The agora is more a landscape element than an architectural element, perfectly fitting to the demands of the Citizen and Media Centre not being a distraction – and being underground.

    How do you plan for invisibility?

    The biggest issue in planning underground out of respect for the parliament building was to keep details simple and invisible. The more you intent to make architecture invisible, the more architectural knowledge has to be put into the design. For example, visibility of needed balustrades of stairs and the elevator connecting the ground floor should almost disappear in the sight in front of the parliament building. As a result, we designed a circular slope in the landscape, lowering the transparent balustrades of the roof edge and the inner courtyards, reducing visible architectural elements to a minimum.

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