BP Headquarters Bochum
A building that conserves resources and saves energy
Mr Teherani, how would you describe the key idea behind this complex?We always develop the idea out of the location itself. Here in Bochum, we were not so freely to develop a singular shape such as this. On the one hand, there were the walings of the old construction on the plot, which it seemed sensible to incorporate and retain. On the other hand, we also had to take the park into account. From this we developed the idea of “vertical pavilions surrounded by nature”. We laid out the surrounding landscape in such a way that it interposes itself between the buildings creating an interlock effect. It was important to us that the users of the building should have the impression that they are in the middle of a park. We built the pavilions all in one direction. These buildings are cut in diagonally to create optical axes with a view towards the park. If, instead of this, we had simply erected a second waling parallel to the existing one, the view for half of the building’s users would have been obstructed. Therefore we now have four individual buildings which communicate between the town and the park.
To what extend was the key idea of the design determined by the Corporate Identity of the commissioning organisation?We succeeded in translating the CI by integrating the natural world into the building ensemble in a consistent way. To accord with the marketing focus of the organisation, there is a connection with nature and no barrier against the surroundings or – figuratively – against the environment. We have created a friendly “green building”.
How does the layout of the structure work?The building has two horizontal levels. Access is via the right of way on the ground floor. As the building ensemble is inclined, this area opens out towards the park. Another path leads down behind the reception area into the base zone, branching into the vertical core arrangement, circling the area around the inner courtyard. The base area accommodates the conference suite and also the canteen.
The skywalks on the 4th floor create an additional enclosed ring, which also includes the old building. In order to provide further shortcuts, there are also two bridges between the entrance building and the first pavilion. These create a transparent noise barrier for the inner courtyard area towards the Wittener Street.
Apart from the views towards the park, how important is the fact that you can see one building from another?The reciprocal views create an internal spatial connection which allows the building structures to coalesce. We also believe that this strengthens the sense of community amongst the employees. At the same time, we are using this internal optical relationships to define a centre.
What design interactions are there between the spaces created and the building envelope itself?The floor by floor alternation of openings arose from the desire to avoid verticals. Rows of windows like that would have been too hierarchical for us. Nor did we want a classic punctuated façade with windows; the storey-height openings were really important, as they provide an attractive view even from a sitting position. The floor by floor offset of the pavilion windows not only created a genial vitality, it also provided a two-dimensional sense of the façade.
We have also enlivened the building envelope by using different sized window openings on different sides of the building depending on their exposure to the sun and the view they offer. On the north east and north west sides towards the park the windows are larger and the wall areas smaller, on both south facing sides this relationship is reversed. On the inside on both types there is a chamfer on one side of the window from the pre-fabricated concrete wall components with a triangular outline, into which the upright heaters are integrated. The variation in the size of the windows creates similar light and heat radiation ratios for both north and south-facing workstations. At the same time, the angled position of the walls increases the proportion of indirect light.
In formal terms, this façade profile is reversed when it comes to the reception building. Here, we find a dynamic outer surface which, nevertheless, produces a mostly even inner view. On the pavilions, on the other hand, we have a smooth outer skin with almost flush inset windows and this sophisticated interplay of the inside reveals. So in all the buildings we find variations on the same theme.
Buildings from the same architectural practice tend to have the same hallmark. At the same time, each building possesses something unique. On the BP Head Office, what is typical of BRT and what is unique?We design buildings for people. We always aim to achieve optimum proportions, lighting and views. Even the most out-of-the-way room must be so good that I would want to occupy it by myself. Furthermore we attempt to include and use the character of the location as a plus-point. Both of these points are well-defined here.
The great attraction of this project for us was that we were building directly for future users. The building was tailor-made with regard to the corporate identity, the type of company leadership and the detailed demands, which exceed standard spatial arrangements.
Architect Hadi Teherani talked with Robert Mehl, Aachen