National Savings Fund for the Construction Industry, Wiesbaden

Ceiling panels for interior and external areas, wall units for conference and casino areas

Completion 2001


Ever since plywood was first developed and veneered at Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau in the early 20th century, the company has gained a continual wealth of knowledge in all aspects of the veneering process. In this time, designers such as Bruno Paul, Karl Bertsch and many others have sounded out and even furthered the limits of veneer as it relates to structural design. And so the veneer stock as well as the specialists working with veneer today still have to adhere to the very highest standards. Up to the present day, orders are still being made for services which go above and beyond the conventional. As was the case in Wiesbaden. A homogeneous total effect was desired for the ceiling panelling, leading to the development of a so-called “barcode” structure. From the very beginning, the designs from the Thomas Herzog + Partner architectural firm centred around two basic concepts that characterise the work for the National Savings Fund for the Construction Industry in Wiesbaden: environmental compatibility and economy. Less energy consumption and the greatest possible use of space by streamlining architectural processes coupled with the love of detail – all this necessitated special solutions for this project. As an example, the call to integrate the entire building technology into the façade was realised. The parameters of “visual uniformity” and “formative conclusiveness” ultimately defined the tasks facing Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau on this project. The company had to create uniform ceiling panelling both inside and out, even as the two needed to stand up to completely different demands. A panel had to be selected both for the hallway as well as for the outer areas of the ground floor which permitted a smooth progression and transition between both areas. The transition zones between inside and out were frequently set off by glass walls, the transitions readily recognised from any perspective. The ceiling panels therefore run uninterrupted. The size of the surfaces to be clad had far-reaching consequences, thus it was virtually impossible to clad them homogeneously with conventional veneers. Even if the wall units and partitioning walls could be manufactured, it was the ceiling panels constituting the greatest demands on the project groups in terms of construction, production as well as installation. Thus, the specialists proceeded as follows: First the fibreboard material was differentiated as to interior and external areas – veneer boards for the outer areas, for the interior medium-density fibreboards. The architect’s plans took commercial panel sizes into consideration from the very beginning to ensure minimum waste. The different supports were given the same veneer so that the total effect was indeed uniform inside and out. This could only be achieved by developing a special type of veneer, which was then given a special name: barcode. The veneer’s appearance is a function of a well-planned, imperceptible change in the wood structure from one panel to the next. In view of the surface dimensions, it would not have been possible to use veneer from one single tree trunk for the Wiesbaden project. The transition ensuing from the use of different woods was designed so as to be unnoticeable within the whole. The next step was to provide a 3 x 1.25 metre long panel with lengthways veneer using twelve directly adjoining veneer sheets of differing widths. Each individual sheet exhibits a different structure. These sheets are continued to the next panel at the same alignment. An imperceptible change takes place longitudinally where one sheet ends and a new one begins. The transition occurs in only one sheet per panel. Within the whole, transitions and changes are perceived as fluid, constant. The overall design is utterly uniform – that’s surface magic. Worthy of note is also the overall logistics, particularly since each individual sheet was plotted to a specific, precise location and a total of 3700 square metres needed to be finished.

Text: Rainer Baginski
Photo: Bernadette Grimmenstein