Architects have long understood their duty to the future. Buildings have a permanence that requires the interests of the younger generations and their successors be taken into account. Architect Dietmar Eberle, co-founder of firm baumschlager eberle architekten, calls this the “responsibility of the architect to the future and to the people who don't have a say.” This responsibility is conjoined for Eberle with a pair of duties to the living: to use the built environment to improve their quality of life, and to use resources carefully.
Eberle’s firm had a rare opportunity to push this kind of thinking to its zenith when designing a building that they themselves would inhabit. They took it as a chance to create a prototype of a building for the future based on their ideas. Incorporating the architects’ most ambitious concepts about the future of design and construction, and the most advanced materials and gadgetry, the result is an experimental masterpiece with one foot in the cutting-edge present and another in an almost science-fictional future.
The building has been given the moniker 2226 as a result of its ability to automatically maintain a temperature between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius (the Goldilocks zone for indoor temperature) - but the name also calls to mind a near-future, one that you can’t help but feel might look a lot like the vision that the building sets out.
The building is not the result of pie-in-the-sky thinking on behalf of its architects. Rather, every decision was guided by two questions. Firstly, how can we create practical connections for the building’s occupants without having to replace nature with a technical environment? And secondly, how can we use even less energy to achieve even more comfort?
Guided by these questions, the building’s stunning form followed on from a focus on performing key functionalities with precision and ingenuity. Its stature as a powerful - even prosaic - white cube is a result of the decision to create a building that would be entirely free of any mechanical heating, ventilation or air conditioning systems, saving money, energy and slashing standard maintenance costs. Instead of the standard systems, the building uses its massive structure as a storage mass for the heat generated by its occupants and their computers - the building’s exoskeleton consists of two connected brick walls, each 38 centimeters thick. This pragmatic, even historical approach is combined with an ultramodern one: modulating heat with newly-developed software that controls indoor energy flows via sensors which open and close narrow openings that are integrated into the windows.
This focus on internal air environments reveals that the internal design of the building was a core part of its creation from day one. As a result, knowing which furnishings they would be using ahead of time was invaluable. As USM customers for decades, they already had a suite of USM Haller pieces that had done 15 years of service at their fingertips. It was these pieces that became the company's benchmark for everything else: the architects used their measurements as an exact specification for additional pieces, which were commissioned for the project. They also carefully planned the layout of the office, using furniture placement to manage the flow of people and information, ensuring that it would be consistent with the building’s core principles.
This partnership - between USM and architects at the cutting edge of their profession - is one that will continue for years to come.
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