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Fraunhofer in­stitute - SIT

SEHW Architektur GmbH

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SEHW Architektur GmbH

The Iceberg -
A new building for the Fraunhofer SIT

People from Darmstadt are calling the new building for the Fraunhofer SIT “Iceberg”. Do the citizens of this scholarly city see the unsinkable Titanic coming? Do they discern the underground levels? Does the façade remind them of calving glaciers?

We don’t know. But the goal of “accentuation instead of exchangeability” seems to have been reached if the building is already now anchored in the public’s perception.
An accent is attained first and foremost through the form of the façade, which contains curtain-like elements in different depths. Ice-white, the relief-like building-shell wraps around the six floors. The projecting and recessed structure with its ensuing shadows form a three dimensional analog to the authentification codes, one of the many areas of operation of the Fraunhofer Institute for Safe Information Technology.

The new building by SEHW Architects from Berlin is an extension of the first German data processing center which was built in 1963, a free facility that cooperated with different universities and research institutes. The already modern building, with a broad base and two-story platform, is now getting a much-needed expansion.
To highlight the unity of the old and new building, and to accommodate the street as defined space, the surface of the platform will be expanded upon. As a further extension of the structure, a six-story office space rises above the platform, separated by a mezzanine floor, setting a discernable accent in the skyline.

Behind the façade there is a lot of room for research and bright minds.

The ground floor is an entrance and a display window at once, providing a view into the building. Conventions, receptions and the everyday goings-on of the employees and their corporate partners don’t happen behind closed doors but are instead open and exposed by large scale glass. The foyer thereby takes on an inviting gesture.

The interior glass walls also support visual communication and provide an atmosphere of openness. Since too much transparency during simultaneous activities can also be disturbing, textile walls offer the possibility of spatial separation. These freely interchangeable units can be adapted to different situations and thus provide for rapid flexibility. Through discreet color application of earthy tones, in combination with light surfaces, a contained and elegant whole is established.

Clear orientation, short paths, sensible connections, flexibility in use.

In the new building signage will be optimized, short routes for employees and communication islands will promote exchange with one another and the creative process of work. Central stairways made of glass walls and an open air space create an alliance and connection between floors. Short routes made it possible even in the design concept for the buildings’ technical construction to minimize daily costs of operation. Centralized ducts in the middle zone and double floors in the levels provide high flexibility of use and an ease of maintenance. The building is equipped for the changes of the future. Energy efficiency and sustainability are not just catch phrases but the goal of this research building.


The building was constructed with a steel reinforced concrete frame with an economically efficient structural grid emanating out from a core in the middle of the floor plan. The exterior wall is developed as a banded façade.

Transparency and safety. Does that work?

A building for cyber safety. It can be an oversized register box in Berlin, a built cloud in Cupertino or an iceberg in Darmstadt. Not a black box but its opposite: transparency and encryption in equal measure – these are the keywords. Sensitive sectors can elude the view of the public if needed but, at the same time, communication can happen from the inside and the outside.

Transparency is the new black. But safe!


 Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft für angewandte Forschung e.V.
 SEHW Architektur GmbH
 Hendrik Rieger, Martin Krüger, Kathi Weber, Ismael Keita, Meredith Atkinson, Bettina Fauth,Wolf Ludwig
 Kathi Weber


At its headquarters in Darmstadt, the Fraunhofer SIT (Institute for Secure Information Technology) will grow by three departments within the next three years, due to the formation of the new CASED centre, a part of the state of Hessen’s research funding program LOEWE. The base of the new building will skirt the street space while the upper floors form a block, setting a strong, widely visible accent for the city. The typology is directly derived from the functions within. The single storey base creates a streetfront, forms the entry and presents a showcase, becoming a communications tool for collaborative partners. A set-back mechanical storey visually separates the office block from the base.

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