Machine Assembly Hall

Renovation works for revitalisation of Machine Assembly Hall

Location: Darmstadt, Germany
Client: Darmstadt Technical University
Pre-selection architecture competition: 2017
Size: 3,300 m2

The heritage-listed Maschinenbauhalle (machine assembly hall) of Darmstadt Technical University in Hessen, Germany was completed in 1956 by the state authority for educational buildings according to the design of G. Koch, H. Seemann and R. Dreesen. Together with the German architectural practice Schmucker + Partner, KOKO Architects successfully applied to take part in an architectural competition for revitalisation of the building.

The building is made up of four three-storey high production halls each linked to two-storey wings to house ancillary rooms. The first hall also includes a six-storey glass tower. The brief called for four different uses for the four different spaces – retail, health and wellbeing of university staff, an art forum, and Centre for Cognitive Science.

The steel construction system with brick infill, and generous amounts glazing needed modernisation to conform with energy efficiency targets. With heritage protection ruling out any changes to the external appearance, our competition entry proposed a ‘second skin’ set 2.5 and 5 m behind the glazed east and west facades. This allows a new gallery to run the entire length of the building’s west façade, giving better circulation building and opening the upper floor to barrier free access.

The first hall is home to retail areas opening onto a lofty and airy space. The upper level provides university students with flexible learning spaces for informal learning and group work. A basement level has space for students to relax – as does the vertical garden of the tower space.

The second hall has space for staff to attend specialist appointments such as massage therapy or doctor’s visits. A multifunctional space with balcony above allows space for group activities such as yoga lessons.

The third hall is a large open space that can be adapted to different exhibitions and events as well as meeting rooms and a caterer’s kitchen, giving the university countless possibilities for showing student work and dialogue with the public.
The fourth hall provides for the newly-emerging field of cognitive science research. Study rooms, robot testing areas and a virtual reality cave meet the diverse needs of interdisciplinary researchers.

Carefully balancing the often contradictory requirements for heritage protection, energy efficiency, barrier free access and fire evacuation, the design succeeds in giving the building a second chance at life.