From Berlin,we took several day trips before moving further afield. In Dessau, home of the Bauhaus, we found the recently completed Federal Agency for the Environment, by Berlin-based architects Sauerbruch Hutton, whose GSW Headquarters and Fire & Police Station we saw in Berlin. As a headquarters for the environmental agency, the building was designed as a demonstration of current sustainable building practices, both in the new building and in the renovation and re-programming of adjacent industrial structures.
[Federal Environmental Agency – Sauerbruch Hutton. Image from http://www.sauerbruchhutton.de]
Sauerbruch Hutton have succeeded in integrating sustainable practices into their working method to such an extent that it becomes “like electricity” (in the words of Jeff Kipnis) something that has become fully integrated into the architectural design process, and neccessity for new construction. German architects have been leading the way in this, due in no small part to the environmental sensistivity required by German law. This is not a “sustainable” building any more than it is an “electrified” one.
The form of the building is a kind of stretched-out pallazzo, or “wet noodle” configuration, the main office volume deformed by forces on site – the existing buildings to be reused, and an apparent desire to provide park space and an outdoor entry plaza to mirror the interior public street. The amorphous shape of the office bar is cut across by an orthogonal glass volume, whose roof line echos the repurposed factory buildings nearby. The curvilinear form of the office bar and the linear volume of glass intersect and the resulting interior becomes an enclosed public space cut across by catwalks.
It’s useful to note that before founding their firm in 1989, Sauerbruch and Hutton had experience with OMA and Allison & Peter Smithson, respectively. The legacies of both firms are in evidence here. OMA’s arbitrary (or post-rationalized) formalism and vibrant colors and varied material pallate are on display, and though we can hope that the hues won’t look as dated as the pinks and blues of postmodernism do today, they almost certainly will: enjoy it while it lasts! More interesting is the Smithsonian approach to public space, the multi-level catwalks and interior public street an echo of their early housing projects and their more ambitious visions of urbanism with Team X.
The work of Sauerbruch Hutton was generally well-received by students on the trip, and I think when seen as a synthesis of OMA-style formalism with radical 60’s approaches to urbanism, filtered through a screen of sustainability, it becomes clear that this is a firm to (continue to) watch.
Oh, and did I mention that the Bauhaus is in Dessau?