architecture : urban : visual culture

Laboratory building inspired by electromagnetic radiations – competition entry by Minusplus

A closed monolithic mass versus transparent office spaces, a large hall and floating floors characterize the Minusplus team's 2nd prize winning entry for the EMC test laboratory and server center building competition. The success of the concept confirms the results of several years of research on the changes of office work environments.

architectural concept

Our competition entry for the National Media and Communications Authority’s measuring laboratory and server center building did not only attempt to implement the architectural program. Beside fully satisfying the functional requirements, our goal is to provide a synthesis between the new annex and the existing office building; and to enrich the existing office building with new spaces that can respond to the contemporary challenges of working environments.

We have designed a building that can meet the extremely high technological demands of the metrology and IT rooms of the design program, but at the same time, it also creates a modern work environment that is well-structured, understandable, communal and collaborative for the employees of the building. The spaces of the building are closed and functionally arranged where technological demands require it, but in the traditional workplace environments, they house and serve the employees with openness. The new building seeks to replace the currently neglected community spaces of the existing office building.

For both the metrology labs and the office space, we considered the flexibility of the spaces to be of the highest importance. The design of the office floors without supporting structures inside the space allows the opportunity to divide or open up the spaces. The flexible redrawing of the floor plans is supported by modular facades. The two-level high, mid- and high-span halls of the laboratories can easily be reconfigured as well by rearranging the measuring chambers and devices depending on the changes in technology.

spatial arrangement

When deciding on the development of the site and the position of the new annex, we considered priority to solve the following aspects:

  • a good functional connection to the existing building, especially the entrance hall, as the annex shall not have a separate entrance;
  • a protected placement of measuring labs deep inside the plot; vehicle access EMC laboratory through the inner courtyard;
  • ensuring good spatial proportions of the inner courtyard enclosed by the existing and new buildings, maintaining a pleasant feeling of space and a good sun exposure on the courtyard facade of the existing office building;
  • the continuity of the urban context and maintenance of the street facade ratios and scale required by local regulations;
  • maintaining the potential for further development of the site, thus positioning the planned building and underground parking, so that a part of the plot with good proportions and accessibility remains for development in a later stage.

Based on that special criteria of the architectural program, that the environmental requirements of the measuring laboratories and the normal office workplaces are divided acutely (lighting, delimitation, technological service), these two masses / zones of the building were contrasted sharply with architectural means: they are treated differently both in the modelling of their volumes and in terms of their architectural image.

The measuring labs were placed in the inner part of the plot, oriented north and protected from the south side. The volume is determined by the large-span and high ceiling hall of the EMC measuring chamber with adjoining laboratories on the ground floor and, to a lesser extent, on the 1st floor. All this results a one-runged, three-level volume, whose image is characterized by closeness and monolithicity. With their openness and transparency, the office spaces create contrast with the closed blocks of the measuring labs. Their appearance is dominated by the floating floor slabs and the various levels of transparency of the spatial boundaries. This building part located on the southern boundary protects the labs from southern sun exposure and from the public space.

 

The heart of the new building is the atrium, which connects all of the levels and labs with its light transparent space, also functions as an imposing prelude to the event hall on the top floor of the building. Thanks to the runged volume of the measuring labs, community spaces with pleasant proportions and sizes are formed at all levels. The atrium space rises up to the top of the EMC measuring hall, where the interior continues in the outside space of the intimate roof garden on the 3rd floor. In addition to providing a recreational space for the employees of the building, the garden prepares and enriches the outdoor terraces of the event hall on the top floor. The crown of the building is the event hall, which seems to float above the closed block of the EMC lab with its terraced appearance opened towards the view. The 120 person hall opens to terraces on two sides, its inside wall can accommodate the mobile partitions that can divide the space into four.

The central ventilation and machinery room is located under the console of the terraces of the conference hall. This position is advantageous in many ways: it makes the ventilated spaces easily and quickly accessible, and both fresh air inlet and outlet on the roof can be directly solved. The subordinate mechanical function makes good use of the space limited by the Vierendel structure over the long-span hall of the EMC chamber.

Since the planned building does not have a separate entrance, it is to be approached from the main entrance of the existing office building. For this purpose, the atrium of the building is connected to the entrance hall of the existing building on two levels, thereby forming an entry space of dignity not only for the annex but also the existing office building.

facades

The two parts of the building that are contrasted with their volumes are also distinct in the formation of their facades. While in the case of the hall of the measuring labs, the functional requirement is a closed facade, without openings to ensure the protection of the interior space - the normal working environments requires natural light, ventilation and view. This difference is reflected by the facades, so they respond in two ways by an analogy with the electromagnetic behaviour.

The volume of the measuring laboratories behaves as an absorbent: its closed mass is covered with a dark, uniform facade cladding, inspired by electromagnetic absorbing ferrite tiles used in the measuring chambers. This cladding, emphasizing the enclosure and monolithicity of the building mass, is used not only on the facades, but also on the horizontal surfaces as floor covering. Its material is specially treated, large format, high-precision gres, cement or ceramic tiling.

Contrary to this, the transparent handling of the office spaces’ facades is analogous to a permeable, filter-like material behaviour. Therefore, we propose a 21st century technology solution for the storey-high transparent facade surfaces, that fulfills all of the aspects of transparent thermal insulation, overheating protection, energy conversion, and heat storage. The GlassX system has not only excellent thermal insulation properties, but also a response to environmental change.

This operation that dynamically reacts to environmental influences, by changing the facade's transparency, offers countless opportunities to create a contemporary appearance worthy of the technological level of measurement and computing housed in the annex building. For the expression of the internal functions and the aesthetics of change, we have developed a number of alternative solutions that are all inspired by electromagnetic radiation measurement images, frequency patterns and radiation maps.

Minusplus

 

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