Wood in architecture
Dornbirn || Austria
What do a trade fair center and the agora of an ancient polis have in common? Like the Greek model, it functions as a marketplace, a meeting place, and a place for celebrations and festivals - people go there to get the latest information, meet friends and family, and “see and be seen”. This is especially true of the trade fair center in Dornbirn, which acts as the complementary counterpart to the marketplace in the center of town. After the trade fair buildings and the open spaces in the center of town proved to be too small for the onslaught of exhibitors and visitors, the local political leaders thought it was fitting to rezone a large agricultural area near the new South Motorway Junction for this purpose.
Thus, the fairgrounds were moved to the outskirts of town in the mid1970s, construction took place in several stages, and the trade fair center has been continuously expanded and modernized over the decades - today the large central open space is surrounded by 14 exhibition halls, designed by famous architecture firms like Leopold, Oskar Leo and Johannes Kaufmann, Cukrowicz Nachbaur Architects, and Rainer Amann. In 2012, Dietrich Untertrifaller Architects was brought on board to come up with a master plan to ensure that the upcoming renovation of the west axis would go off without a hitch.
In agreement with the fair management, their strategic vision for the further development of the trade fair center encompasses building lines, building heights, and the entire system of pathways throughout the fairgrounds – the agora, the central square, is supposed to play a bigger role, the orientation within the buildings and open spaces needs to be improved, and the sequence and function of the exhibition halls must be brought into better alignment. In 2014, an invited competition was held on the basis of these premises for the next major milestones – the exhibition halls 12, 11, 10, and 9 along the west side of the fairgrounds. Out of a field of 10 participants, Marte.Marte Architects was able to convince the jury with its outstanding design, which is characterized by power and restraint.
The team assembled around the two brothers Bernhard and Stefan Marte impressed the jury with their enormous emblematic structure – four exhibition halls are combined into one gigantic, monolithic building measuring 170 m long, nearly 70 m wide, and 16.5 m high. This powerful gesture arranges the existing conglomerate and injects it with new energy. This can be seen and felt in Marte.Marte’s design, which is based on a few specific guidelines: «We are building a large structure, dividing it into four segments with different functions, covering the exterior of the building with thin black stripes, and providing access to the building through elliptical incisions, courtyards and foyers in deep, rich carmine».
The backbone of the building is the interior circulation axis – room-high glazed openings guide visitors from the main entrance through the series of exhibition halls – red, black, red, black. As impressive as the elliptical, hyperbolic incisions in the two long sides of the building are, the color scheme of the giant is just as powerful and vivid. Both colors are represented equally, like heraldic tinctures – pure colors without shading, gradients, and nuances remind one of flags and banners. The dimensions and the power of the rooms are impressive. There is hardly anything comparable in Vorarlberg except for the large factory halls of major companies. The entire building complex is crisscrossed with a lattice of 4.5 meter high trusses made of laminated beams, giving one the impression of being placed side by side.
A dropped ceiling covers the installation level and only the bottom flanges are still visible. Between the facade supports with crossbeams, 70 doors permit exit in the case of fire, and a grid of acoustic panels prevents the dreaded flutter echo and ensures high-quality sound. Black in black. Function in construction. The inviting, spectacular foyer between the two exhibition halls is painted entirely in red, and the horizontal ellipsoid at the entrance is mirrored in the five elliptical arches of the load-bearing concrete slab, forming arcades and separating the stream of visitors from those relaxing in the bistro. In terms of lighting, the different sequences of the building cover the entire spectrum: Tunable White, the adjustable white from Zumtobel Licht, bathes the exhibition and event spaces in cool or warm white, creating the appropriate ambiance for the Genussmesse Gustav Food, Drink & Lifestyle Fair, an auto show, the Art Bodensee art fair, or a wedding. What also sets the approach of Marte.Marte apart from the other competitors was the equal treatment of visitors, exhibitors, and vendors. One of the two carmine courtyards cut into the west facade of the building serves as an entrance for visitors, whereas the other is reserved for the delivery of goods. Thus, the building does not differentiate between front and back, but is presentable and functional on all sides. The incisions are covered in the same material – inexpensive, coated corrugated sheeting – as the rest of the building. The striking contrast of black on red highlights the invagination and gives one the impression of being inside the building although the courtyards are open to the sky. The shrinking diameter of the ellipsis as it approaches roof level gives the hyperbolic shape its sophisticated effect. In dramatic fashion, the courtyard tapers off into a keyhole, which also brings with it the added benefit of protecting the delivered goods from the elements. The fair management really managed a coup with the construction of the black giant. The new wing symbolizes maximum restraint on the outside, while offering a perfectly orchestrated image of bustling activity on the inside. It takes courage to move away from one’s original idea of a collage and to put one’s faith in the realization of this uncompromising design. Once again, Marte.Marte has thought outside the box and created a building of emblematic power, offering a festive, functional setting for an agora on the outskirts of the city. Now, it is time to fill it with fitting content and to celebrate the exchange of products, ideas, and art. Long live the polis!
Client and Owner: Messe Dornbirn
Architect: Marte.Marte Architekten
Completion: April 2017
Gross Floor Area: 10.450 m²
Cost of Construction: 25,2 Million Euros
Project Management: Gruppe Bau Dornbirn
Static: M+G Ingenieure, Feldkirch, Gruppe Bau Dornbirn
Building Physics: Bernhard Weithas, Lauterach
Electrical: Ingenieurbüro Hiebeler + Mathis, Hörbranz
Plumbing: Breuß Mähr bauingenieure, Koblach Façade: Kohler
Metal Cladding: Starmann Metallbau
Wall Partitions: Tischlerei Schwendinger Floor Finish: Küng Bau, Bauschutz Wels
Audio-visual Equipment: PKE
Photography: © Faruk Pinjo