Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing / hammeskrause architekten

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Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing / hammeskrause architekten
© Joern Lehmann

Project Details:
Location: Cologne, Germany
Type: HealthOffices
Net Floor Area: 8,600 m²
Gross Floor Area: 20,340 m²
Architects: hammeskrause architekten bda
Team: Dipl.-Ing. Markus Hammes, Dipl.-Ing. Uwe Beierbach, Dipl.-Ing. Peter Just, Dipl.-Ing. Joachim Klüsekamp, Dipl.-Ing. Claudia Büchler, Dipl.-Ing. Nicole Steinbach-Falch

It is rare to be faced with a cramped inner-city plot when planning new research buildings.
But such was the case here, the proximity to the University Hospital of Cologne making the location appear to be a good choice despite the less-than-generous available area. Besides the need to come up with a solution for this unusual urban planning context in our competition entry, there was also the question of how to organize the interior of the building. Disposing over large, densely packed laboratory-scapes directly adjacent to communication zones was the declared goal of the scientists as basis for their work.

Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing / hammeskrause architekten
© Juergen Schmidt

On the omnidirectional plot, the building as realized is now clearly integrated geometrically into the heterogeneous built environment, occupying all relevant edges of the site as if it had always been there and in this way generating a suitable urban context. The idea was for the new building to maintain a sufficient distance from the surrounding structures and, rather than standing out in height, to create a dense urban space. A more low-slung look was desirable for the large cubic structure so that it would not end up dominating the neighborhood of clinic buildings and residences.

Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing / hammeskrause architekten
© Joern Lehmann

Out of the special functional and organizational demands of the integrated lab/office clusters, a spatial concept was developed for laying out the individual departments and linking them together. The body of the building is divided horizontally in the classical manner into a ground level for infrastructure functions, the floors housing the scientific areas, and the top floor for building services and hygiene laboratories. At the center of the compact, dense building, the atrium forms the hub of all activity and an interface between internal and external communication. The main entrance affords direct access to the research center, with the overall room structure and the various access routes immediately apparent upon entering. One focus in the inner articulation is the horizontal structure of the research areas. All departments, research groups and junior research groups are lined up on only two stories. Any of these areas can be reached either via the building’s central core or laterally from department to department. The research areas all look onto the atrium to create the desired sightlines between scientific work in the laboratory and passing visitors, guests and staff.

Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing / hammeskrause architekten
© Joern Lehmann

The atrium as communication center has a triangular skylight extending at half its height across the entire area; the glass roof has been constructed as a gridshell with a biaxial curvature.

Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing / hammeskrause architekten
© Joern Lehmann

In choosing materials for the facades, we wanted to defy the urban context, give the building a respectable and sustainable appearance and at the same time not conceal the aspect of aging in dignity that is the theme of the work going on inside. The various areas were thus each given a different facade treatment developed out of their respective functions. While the top floor with its white concrete surfaces exudes a feeling of calm and closure, the scientific levels below have been lent a shimmering effect through the use of tombac slats.