Helmholtz Institute Jena
Architecture for high-performance lasers and particle accelerators
The research community at Jena was joined by a branch of the Helmholtz Institute in 2009. The city has a reputation as a centre for top-level research, notably in the fields of optics and precision engineering. The Helmholtz Institute’s growing spatial needs have now been met by indirectly building on. Nestling amongst seasoned villas and existing large buildings operated by the Institute that occupy the hills below the Landgrafen plateau in north Jena, the new structure simply oozes architectural timelessness.
The blueprint cleverly harnesses the sloping terrain and the differing topographical planes arising as a result to the task of organising functions in the building. A cubiform structure with even frontage to all sides exploits the plot’s scope to the full whilst also achieving an optimum correlation between floorspace and volume. The building’s most important room is actually below ground, however. The Institute’s key experiments with “light and matter under extreme conditions” are conducted in what is known as the Target Room.
There is a subterranean link between this room for laser experimentation and the laboratories of the Institute’s neighbouring heritage building. The labs in the new building are located on the ground floor, which is set on a slope, enabling transportation activities to be performed via a separate access point. The main entrance on Fraunhoferstrasse is reached via an at-grade bridge link. Through it, one enters a first floor housing offices as well as a seminar room that can optionally be opened up to form a foyer. The top floor above that is taken up by further offices.
Architecture and Object
Antje Osterwold and Matthias Schmidt,
Photo: © Michael Miltzow
“We are not,” Osterwold°Schmidt are keen to state, “dogmatic about right angles and flat roofs,” though these do figure large in many of their buildings.
The design was originated by the Osterwold°Schmidt practice in Weimar and emerged as the winner of an international competition in 2018. Plain and clean-lined as its volume may be, the building nevertheless exudes a subtly sculptural quality. Its architectural means are low-key and pared-down. Its windows are bracketed by extra-wide fascias angled inwards to either the left or right. Slender horizontal cornices run beneath all window openings. Moulded detail has likewise been incorporated on the windowless ground floor, thus further enhancing the building’s sculptural impact.
Moulded detail has likewise been incorporated on the windowless ground floor, thus further enhancing the building’s sculptural impact. Every feature of the façade, inclusive of its slat-type window shutters, has been decorated in a creamy white colour. The chromatics of the outer skin lend it an almost fabric-like quality when all the shutters are closed. Interior spaces are defined by customised shades of beige and brown that act as a calm and modern backdrop to fields of innovative research the very titles of which would leave the majority of us floundering. Handles in bronze and stainless steel blend in seamlessly with the interior scheme.
Handles in bronze and stainless steel blend in seamlessly with the interior scheme. “Use-driven differences here have already begun emerging and have a pleasingly accentuating effect, we feel: bronze that darkens through weathering and/or infrequent handling, or gleams brightly when regularly gripped,” is how Antje Osterwold explains their opting for bronze, a material that, as well as echoing the prevailing colour scheme, undergoes changes as a function of time and operation. The architects selected the FSB 1015 model plus its return-to-door variant FSB 1045. The folding doors in the seminar room were additionally fitted with the new flush ring handles FSB 42 4205 and 42 4204.
Photos: Brigida González