The new Sedus Stoll AG Development and Innovation Centre in Dogern (Hochrhein), Germany, was completed at the end of 2010. With this building which was planned by the Berlin-based architects Ludloff + Ludloff, the internationally renowned manufacturer of office furniture has taken another step towards transferring its remaining departments from the company's historical headquarters in Waldshut to its main production location. Thanks to the proximity to the production departments, designers, engineers and staff in the model workshops can now optimally exploit synergies when developing new products. Located directly next to the high-bay warehouse designed by the architects at Sauerbruch Hutton, this introverted building which is enveloped in a façade made of glass fibre fabric can appear either transparent and tulle-like or opaque and smooth depending on the intensity of the sunlight.
The internationally renowned office furniture manufacturer, Sedus Stoll AG, was founded in 1871 in Waldshut am Hochrhein. As a result of continuous expansion and increased production demands, the former site in the city, close to the train station, proved too small even back in the 1960s. In the neighbouring village of Dogern a suitable site in an industrial area was purchased which allowed further growth to go ahead. Over time not only were all the production departments relocated there, but the production-related administration departments also followed suit. Following conversion of the administration building by Jockers Architects and the necessary additions of a canteen and staff restaurant, further departments moved to this new site from 2000 onwards.
The Development and Innovation Centre which was planned and realised by Ludloff + Ludloff represents a milestone in terms of the use of internal synergies. At the same time it is an architectural jewel and new platform by which the innovative qualities of Sedus Stoll AG can be identified.
This building, which is not open to the public, is the home of strategic product development. Those responsible for projects can now get together quickly and without complications to agree on drafts, materials, construction methods and production processes.
From the outside this building in its enveloped and monolithic design appears silent and introverted. What can be seen is a textile outer façade made of glass fibre fabric which offers visual screening and protection from the elements. It gives the building its external cover and, in turn, its diffuse and immaterial, indeed pastel look.
The basement and ground floor are made of concrete and the upper floor and roof from a wooden construction. Light blue polyacrylic-based weatherproof strips were used for the first of the two layers and protect the building fabric from the elements.
On entering the building visitors pass through an access control to go either to the workshops and test laboratory on the ground level or through a foyer to the upper floor via the adjacent entrance in a glass wall.
The workshop character of the building is enhanced by the large amount of visible concrete in the reception area. The walls along the stairway made of site concrete have been nigged. This means they have been finished to give the impression of natural stone similar to Nagelfluh, a conglomerate found in the Alps. The visual appearance of the pebbles contained in the concrete has thus been enhanced.
The foyer in the upper floor is accessed via the slightly concave winding stairway. Here the development management, design, engineering and strategic procurement departments work together. The integrated floor areas in muted red, natural rubber form the platform over which the canopy floats, a roof construction comprising a folded gable roof and varying eaves heights.
With a room height of up to seven metres an impression of floating is created thanks to the continuous ribbon windows. An inspirational effect – perfect for freeing and inspiring the spirit.
For acoustic reasons the core of the building which houses a project room, conference rooms, wash and storage rooms features a wall covering made of fabric panels in a warm shade of grey. Light strips in the upper floor ensure accentuated light guidance. As such, the bright rooms are characterised by muted tones, both in terms of sounds and lighting.
A small, steel spiral staircase in a separate stairway leads up into a “thinking retreat” done out entirely in light blue. Here, in the zenith of the building, the daylight streams through the textile blended, frosted glass in the roof, and tangentially down into the project room below.
Located on the ground floor are the workshops for the model building, upholstering and metalworking departments where all the individual parts of the prototypes are manufactured until the new products are ready for series production.
Here large, bright rooms with a good view of the green surroundings and direct access to an outside patio have been created. This is also the home of the testing laboratories in which technicians test the load capacity of the materials and new products.
The use of colour throughout the building is characterised by subtle tones and tasteful accentuation. Apart from the light blue ceiling of the upper floor, the red flooring and the bold violet tones in the spiral stairway, the only other strong colours are to be found in the washrooms where yellow is contrasted with dark brown.
The general restraint exercised in the use of colour and the overall minimalist, functional ambience is not accidental: It is not distracting and from a visual, aesthetic point of view, it allows employees sufficient freedom in which to develop the Sedus products of the future and provides them with a space in which to channel the associated creative chaos.
Processes as the basis for planning
The architectural plans are based on an in-depth process analysis. To this end, several workshops with representatives from Sedus were carried out in order to achieve optimal room situations and work spaces. Consequently the workplaces on the upper floor of those staff members who have to concentrate most are located on the sides which face away from the staircase. The inner core of the building provides acoustic and visual protection. Those departments which receive a larger number of visitors such as reception, development management and strategic procurement face towards the more heavily frequented zones.
The eight members of staff on the ground floor who are responsible for model making, metalworking and upholstery can boast extremely attractive and, in terms of ergonomics, ideal working rooms with a good view of the beautiful scenery outside. In turn, these rooms are located around the mechanically ventilated core of the building in which the louder appliances and machines, welding and spraying rooms can be found.
A small bright kitchen with ground-level access to a patio is available for breaks, informal get-togethers and small celebrations.
On walking through the building it is evident how closely and thoroughly the basic spatial conditions have been aligned to operational and human demands.
The last stage in the pursuit of the one-location strategy is the construction of a new office building with showroom on the basis of the plans submitted by the Munich-based architecture office Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten as part of an architectural competition. The timing for this project has yet to be finalised.