A geometric corrugated metal and glass facade integrates industry and nature.
Barkow Leibinger‘s original scheme for HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren, developed for a competition several years ago, was “a completely crazy origami thing,” recalled partner Frank Barkow. But upon winning the commission and learning that the factory‘s owners wished to build it in a single phase, “we had to be careful not to kill them with the budget,” he said. “We really dumbed it down.”
The architects did, however, hold on to their original pinwheel plan, with production wings rotating around a communal courtyard. Inspired by Le Corbusier‘s “green factory”—a humanizing alternative to the “black factories” of the nineteenth century, which prioritized the flow of goods over the experience of the workers—Barkow Leibinger’s design opens the HAWE plant to the Bavarian countryside with a geometric facade of corrugated metal and glass.
In addition to drawing upon Le Corbusier’s “green factory” concept, Barkow Leibinger also looked at industrial designs out of northern Italy in the 1960s and 70s, which in turn led them to experiment with a prefabricated concrete frame. “Usually we do steel,” explained Barkow, “but in this case the client liked the precast concrete. It’s a dirty industry—there’s a lot of milling going on.” The factory’s exposed mechanical systems are integrated directly into the structure, passing through perforations in the horizontal beams. “It’s not a very finicky factory,” said Barkow. “We just put it where they needed it.”
Steel-framed shed roofs sit atop the concrete. Skylights look to the north, while the roof’s south slopes are designed to accommodate photovoltaic panels. “The north-facing shed is a classical industrial solution,” noted Barkow. “It brings in a lot of light, and saves a lot on artificial lighting.” The arrangement of solids and voids on the facade emphasizes the resulting sawtooth profile. The architects carved the envelope into a repeating pattern of triangles and trapezoids, clad in glass and corrugated sheet metal, respectively. Most of the building’s glazed surface is translucent white channel glass, with vision glass in the sliver of space closest to the ground.
At the end of each wing, a broad horizontal window features a larger central section of channel glass framed by floor-to-ceiling panels of transparent glass to either side. “This is a kind of Corbusian idea: large end facades that look into the countryside,” said Barkow. The factory wings are designed to be expansible, the end facade deconstructed and then rebuilt after the installation of additional bays.
Barkow Leibinger gave HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren’s extra-production facilities distinct treatments. The lobby and office area is “a more blocky structure,” said Barkow, with a transparent curtain wall. The cafeteria, too, plays up the connection to the courtyard with plentiful glazing. The architects designed the “edge spaces'” facades to contrast—but not clash with—the factory floor, explained Barkow. “They’re adjacent spaces, but quieter and cleaner.”
HAWE-Werk Kaufbeuren earned a silver rating from the DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council) thanks in part to the architects’ emphasis on daylighting and use of triple glazing, plus careful attention to the window-to-wall ratio. “Nothing spectacularly complex” was involved in the sustainability strategy, said Barkow. Indeed, the very simplicity of the design led to its success, practically and conceptually as well as in terms of environmental performance. From a complicated initial scheme to their final, streamlined, solution, Barkow Leibinger pared the plan and material palette to the bare essentials, with an eye to speeding construction while keeping the “green factory” ideal at the fore. “It’s a large project in this landscape,” said Barkow. “It’s at a different scale, and more robust, than the factories we typically work on.”