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Comic Transformation: WERK12 by MVRDV

Comic Transformation: WERK12 by MVRDV

WERK12 by MVRDV Ph. Ossip van Duivenbode

Forming the nucleus of the Werksviertel-Mitte district, an urban regeneration plan on a former industrial site, WERK12 was designed by MVRDV. The 7,700 m2 mixed-used development stands out with its bold and expressive art façade featuring five-meter-tall verbal expressions found in German comics.

Ph. Ossip van Duivenbode

The design combines a simple form, honest materials, and transparent façades. Users can move around the building in multiple ways: the design’s external circulation core on the building’s Northeastern side is supplemented by 3.25-meter-wide terraces that surround each floor. These are connected by external staircases that curl around the building and connect the generous open spaces. The staircases are a playful reference to one of MVRDV’s most famous early projects, the Dutch Pavilion at the Expo2000 in Hanover. This public route up the building blurs the distinction between interior and exterior, placing the interior spaces in conversation with the exterior balconies. These are additionally finished in the same material as the ground-level sidewalks to emphasize their status as part of the public area of the building.

The façade is animated by an urban art piece, developed in tandem with local artists Christian Engelmann and Beate Engl, that comprises bold lettering spelling out common expressions taken from the German version of the Donald Duck comics. This five-meter-tall lettering, and the colloquial nature of the expressions, are a tribute to the graffiti culture and the extensive use of signage found on the old site. At night, the appearance of the building is transformed by its lighting. Simple geometries and honest materials morph into a vibrant light show.

“The area of the Werksviertel-Mitte district has already undergone such interesting changes, transforming from a potato factory to a legendary entertainment district. With our design, we wanted to respect and celebrate that history, while also creating a foundation for the next chapter. WERK12 is stylish and cool on one hand, but on the other it doesn’t take itself so seriously—it’s not afraid to say ‘PUH’ to passers-by!”

– Founding partner of MVRDV Jacob van Rijs

The building has five floors that include: restaurants and bars on the ground floor, the offices of Audi Business Innovations on the top floor, and a three-story gym in between that dedicates one story to a swimming pool. WERK12’s floor-to-ceiling glass walls, combined with its location near to the train station, provide the upper levels with stunning views towards central Munich, punctuated in places by the lettering on the building’s terraces—many of which take on new meanings when read in reverse.

Ph. Ossip van Duivenbode

A key to the design was the flexibility of the spaces. The building’s extra-high ceilings, with 5.5 meters between each floor, allows for mezzanines or other level changes to be added by future users. The placement of the circulation on the outside of the building means that the interiors can easily be reconfigured while also providing structural stability through the use of the diagonal staircases.

DATE: 2014-2019 / LOCATION: Munich, Germany / AREA: m2 (built) / PROGRAM: 7,700 m2 Mixed-Use (Gym, Bars and Restaurant, Offices) / STATUS: built / DESIGN: MVRDV / FOUNDING PARTNER IN CHARGE: Jacob van Rijs / PARTNER/DIRECTOR: Fokke Moerel / DESIGN TEAM: Markus Nagler, Roy Sieljes, Jonathan Schuster, Sven Thorissen / VISUALISATIONS: Antonio Luca Coco, Kirill Emelianov, Pavlos Ventouris / STRATEGY AND DEVELOPMENT: Jan Knikker / CO-ARCHITECTS: N-V-O Nuyken von Oefele Architekten BDA / MUNICH ARTWORK COMMISSION: Christian Engelmann and Beate Engl / CONSULTANTS: Wolf+ MEP: Teuber + Viel (Structural Engineering) / CLIENT: OTEC GmbH & Co. KG / PHOTOS: Ossip van Duivenbode

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