Unbroken Radiance

Thomas Herzog in discussion with Markus Peter (Meili Peter, Zurich). Photo: IdA RWTH Aachen University

It was a particular pleasure for Wilkhahn: Thomas Herzog introduced the fourth symposium on the “Identity of Architecture” in Aachen at the end of January to this year’s main theme of “Construction”. He is the Munich architect and pioneer of ecological architecture, who had made lasting architectural history with the new production halls for Wilkhahn in Eimbeckhausen in 1992. The roofs of the daylight-flooded halls are suspended from four raised wooden structures that divide the complex and, at the same time, symbolize the teamwork spirit at Wilkhahn. The clever construction method allows natural lighting and ventilation of the halls, the integration of silicon photovoltaic elements on the south side, green roofs and the construction of the plant in underpinned and crossed wooden structures were real pioneering achievements at the time. To mark the 20th anniversary of the halls in 2012, Wilkhahn had organized its own architecture symposium with Thomas Herzog on the subject of “Ecological pioneer buildings versus green mainstream”. The fact that Herzog opened the renowned, international architecture symposium in 2020 with a lecture on this building, among other things, shows the timelessness and unbroken innovative radiance of the project almost thirty years after its completion.

Keynote by Thomas Herzog (Munich) on "Constructive Compositions". Photo: IdA RWTH Aachen University
Thomas Herzog in the panel discussion moderated by Jørg Himmelreich (Archithesis). Photo: IdA RWTH Aachen University
The interested audience of the 4th conference on the "Identity of Architecture" in the foyer of the Reiffmuseum Aachen. Photo: IdA RWTH Aachen University

In doing so, Thomas Herzog certainly relied on a traditional view of architecture: architecture is the “mastery of an artistic approach to matter”, and construction is the “joining of (parts of) the building to form a whole”, according to the Munich-based architect. The majority of the other speakers, more than thirty in all, followed this definition, albeit in individual interpretations and with different objectives. Their attitudes ranged from classic-conservative to Swiss minimalist and modern-avant-garde. In the lively, competently moderated discussions, Herzog proved to be a committed advocate of a future-oriented attitude, with which the bar was set very high right at the beginning of the conference.

On corporate history and architecture on the Wilkhahn Campus

To the programme of the conference “Identity of Architecture“

With the underlaid or crossed out timber supporting structure, opaque glazing to make use of daylight and the embedding of the Wilkhahn Halls in the topography, the readable construction also became the aesthetic expression of a new architecture designed for sustainability. Photo: Wilkhahn

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