Project title: Experimenta science centre, Heilbronn
General and technical report:
Project identification form:
client Schwarz Real Estate GmbH & Co. KG represented by Drees & Sommer, Stuttgart
brief Extension of a science centre with spaces for exhibition, education, restaurant and a 360° theatre
size gross floor area 17.720 m²
competition 1st prize, 2013
certification DGNB Certificate ‘Diamond’
architects Sauerbruch Hutton, Berlin
Matthias Sauerbruch, Louisa Hutton, Juan Lucas Young, Andrew Kiel, Peter Apel, Jürgen Bartenschlag, Marc Broquetas Maduell, Stefan Fuhlrott, Falco Herrmann, Viviane Hülsmeier, Axel Ibarroule, Rémi Jalade, Nils Lindhorst, Patrick Mc Hugh, Felix Partzsch, Jimi Pazos Estevez, Tanja Reiche-Hoppe, Amalia Sanchez, Christian Seidel, Marina Stoynova, Markus Weber, Waldemar Wilwer
general construction management:
Drees & Sommer GmbH, Stuttgart
Mirco Beutelspacher, Volker Mack
Hager Partner AG, Zürich/Berlin
SBP Schlaich Bergermann Partner GmbH, Berlin
HVAC + building physics + façade consultancy + energy design:
Drees & Sommer Advanced Building Technologies GmbH, Stuttgart
hhpberlin Ingenieure für Brandschutz GmbH, Frankfurt am Main
Wenzel + Wenzel GmbH, Stuttgart
This iconic science centre is located on an island in the River Neckar in the City of Heilbronn. The new building creates an ensemble with an old warehouse that was transformed into a science museum in 2009. Together, the two buildings frame a small piazza that is a welcome resting point for those crossing the river.
As opposed to the stacked floors of the existing building, the new extension is conceived as a helical sequence of spaces. From the main foyer starts a journey along „Theme Worlds“ to learn about the wonders of science with a whole range of exhibits.
While the spaces of the „Theme Worlds“ are more introverted with a translucent skin, the spaces of the rising helix direct the view into the urban and natural surroundings. This path finally ends on the building’s roof with spectacular vistas across the whole Neckar Valley.
The extension of the Experimenta is a technical building made of steel and glass. Its reflective outer skin consists of large rectangular panes of transparent glass and triangular façade panels covered with opaque glass in white and light grey. Through the transparent panes, one looks in and recognises a continuous space that is diagonally connected across the floor levels. If you walk around the building, you realize that the interconnected areas form a large spiral of space: The geometry of this building is the result of the spiral movement.
The new building stands next to a converted and extended storage building. This heavy, prismatic clinker structure also evokes associations with civil engineering.
Both Experimenta buildings are located on Kraneninsel, a cultivated landscape in the middle of the Neckar. The scenic surroundings make the buildings in contrast to nature recognizable as large constructions conceived and erected by humans: The clinker building is a rather static cube, the extension a dynamic building form.
The "network of relationships between man, nature and technology" as a major overarching theme, which is to be brought closer to the visitors of Experimenta, is already addressed by the mere presence of the ensemble in its surroundings.
The theme of the coexistence of construction and nature is also continued in the interior of the new building. The visitor moves in a large steel construction and looks again and again at generous panoramas of trees, city, water and surrounding landscape.
The construction itself is unusual and to a certain extent experimental. It consists of stacked, storey-high truss girders, from which the transparent storeys of the spiral-shaped access path are suspended on thin poles.
In the core of the supporting structure hang glass cubes, which like crystalline cocoons form the protected centre of the spiral movement.
Their materiality is robust and simple. Concrete, steel and glass are the most important materials that form the framework for the views into the open air and the background for the experience of the exhibitions.
The design of the rooms is characterised by technology. The vertical and horizontal main supporting structure as well as the secondary supporting structures for the façade and partition are visible and comprehensible as spatial elements. They follow an engineering logic that does without anything superfluous.
The visitor is aware at all times that he is immersed in the world of a "construction".
In addition to the components of superior scale, the rooms have equipment elements such as seating, wardrobes, counters, railings, simple horizontal surfaces in the handle area and selected door and wall surfaces, which are also part of this "constructive world".
In addition to their necessary robustness, these have a particularly appealing visual and haptic quality and are made for physical contact.
While the shell and the interior may well seek a contrast in materiality and colour, the furnishings of the new building should blend in with its geometric logic of unequal pentagons in the ground plan, as well as rectangles and triangles in view.
The house always amazes the visitor. The architectural spaces are, on the one hand, the stage and background of the exhibition staging and, on the other hand, themselves technical visual objects.
Technology, experimentation, innovation, curiosity and communication with the senses are the core values of the institution Experimenta. This house should add three values to the institution: Transparency, elegance and objective poetry.
Sauerbruch Hutton is an international agency for architecture, urban planning and design that, founded in London in 1989, is now based in Berlin. The office's most important resource is an experienced team of 120 employees, who work in an interconnected, democratic and interdisciplinary environment, sharing tasks and responsibilities in a process of intensive dialogue. This equal and open working culture finds its equivalent in a contemporary company structure that, refreshed in 2020, sees responsibilities carried by a group of 19 partners and 10 associates. This broad base creates a flexible and dynamic environment that fosters the preservation and development of our common values.