my name is stephan, i`m an architect living & working in berlin.
my site is currently under construction. see a preview of one of my projects below.
more coming soon!
A timber concert hall for Nuremberg
Timber is understood to be the construction material of the 21th century, replacing steel and concrete. Timber is a more sustainable material, while at the same time new technologies such as CLT(Cross Laminated Timber) make it also highly efficient and easy to automate. There has been extensive experimentation with timber construction in housing, with timber housing developments becoming more and more present. But can we also think about timber construction for more complex building types such as a concert hall ?
When the city of Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany, announced a competition for the extension of the Meistersingerhalle, the existing modernist concert hall , architects Gilles Retsin and Stephan Markus Albrecht teamed up with the engineers of Bollinger-Grohmann and acoustic specialists Theatre Projects, to design the world’s first fully timber concert hall. Not only the concert hall finishes itself - as is often the case -, but both the box in box structure of the concert hall, the load-bearing elements, floors, dividing walls and circulation throughout are constructed out of timber. Set in Bavaria,which is also known as Europe’s number one forest and timber region, the timber could be sourced and manufactured locally.
This finalist proposal wants to capitalise on new efficiencies and potential for automation which we see in timber housing construction. The entire building is designed as an engineered timber monolith, only consisting of repeating timber modules. In a digital workflow, these modular, lego-like elements are prefabricated in a factory setting, using large CNC-machines and are then shipped to the site for quick assembly. The building is entirely based on a repeating v-shaped timber section of 3m width by 1.2 m depth. This sections repeats both in the horizontal direction, to construct slabs, as in the vertical direction, to create walls and columns. Not only the building structure is modular, but in close collaboration with climate consultant Transsolar and building engineers PBS, all heating and ventilation is integrated in the characteristic V-shaped section of the timber elements.
Stephan Markus Albrecht “ timber technology enables us to think about what seems almost like sci-fi : can we prefabricate an entire concert hall for 1500 people as a lego-like kit of parts, in a factory?”
To organise the hundreds of generic timber modules into a functional building, an algorithmic procedure was developed based on a so called “voxel-space”, or a volumetric pixel. An algorithm assembles digital, v-shaped patterns into larger structural elements around the functional program of the concert hall. The voxels translate into repeating engineered timber plates, which then again form large modules that assemble into specific spatial patterns such as a wall, corner or ceiling. The resulting architectural space can then be understood as an engineered timber monolith, where walls, ceilings and columns follow the same organisational logic throughout the building. Lobbies, back of house and concert hall itself are treated the same, creating one continuous, monolithic space. While timber is interesting for its properties in terms of sustainability and interior climate, it is also warm and welcoming - creating the sensation of a “house” or “pavillion” in the city
Gilles Retsin “ new timber technologies force us to completely reinvent the way we put a building together.There is a big design opportunity here, which can result in buildings that are not only highly sustainable and efficient but also surprising, exciting and fundamentally different from how we designed before”
Stephan Markus Albrecht “modularity was previously associated with boring and uninspiring housing blocks, but timber technologies and new digital workflows show that this doesn’t have to be the case”
The simple, square mass of the new concert hall is then carefully positioned in composition with the existing Meistersingerhalle, bridging between the city and the surrounding park. In front of the concert hall, the main lawn area is designed by Djao-Rakitine landscape architects, with a raised bowl directed towards the building for informal seating. Its raised perimeter creates a unique urban green space for the city, while also grounding the new concert hall in the park.
The concert hall is closed off with a simple glass facade, continuing the logic that the building is designed inside-out. The facades are therefore almost like sections, making the building readable and understandable from all sides, while also exposing its inner working to the public and visitors.
The front facade of the concert hall is defined by two long 9m high spaces, stacked on top of each other and connected with a generous spiral staircase. Two smaller spiral staircases on both sides of the second floor lobby take people higher up to the balconies. The balconies and levels in the concert hall are set on the same rhythm and levels as the surrounding floorplates, which enables quick access inside and outside the concert hall, also for the disabled, which have step-free access to all the different rangs.
Acoustic consultants Theatre Projects, known from their work with Frank Gehry and OMA, devised a composite timber construction for the box-in-box concert hall as an alternative to concrete. Sound insulation is sandwiched between high-density, heavy CLT sheets and finished with a hard timber veneer to provides the best sound insulation characteristics possible but also guarantee the required acoustic warmth for a concert hall. The concert hall is laid out according to the shoebox principle, and provides 1500 sides in front of the stage, with an additional number next to the stages.
The building is designed from the inside out, starting with the concert hall itself. The hall sets out the rhythm for the building, from where the large timber frames start and cantilever outwards, framing the supporting spaces and lobbies. This structure can be conceptualised as a large table, which forms the outer box of the hall. Under this table, the inner box is positioned, following the same structural principles. The bare bones timber structure is then finished with a softer, elegant and calm series of curved folds, formally akin to a curtain or textile.These fine folds sculpt the hall, acting as scattering elements at a variety of scales and preventing acoustic glare.
Gilles Retsin “ This project shows how we are really just at the beginning of engineered timber - in the near future architects and engineers will be re-thinking not only housing and high-rises but also concert halls, museums, stadiums and even airports”
Architects: Stephan Markus Albrecht and Gilles Retsin, w. Nichola Schunter and Isaie Bloch
Landscape Architecture: Djao-Rakitine, Irene Djao-Rakitine, Federica Terenzi
Structural Engineering: Bollinger-Grohmann Ingenieure Klaas De Rycke, Hannah Franz, Frauke Schiffner
Climate: Transsolar, Matthias Rudolph
Acoustics & theatre consulting: Theatre Projects, Sebastien Jouan, Mark Stroomer
Building Engineering: PBS Ingenieure, Robert Preußler
Cost consultants: Wenzel Wenzel, Inna Karbon
Transport: Fichtner Water and Transportation, Markus Weise
Renderings: Filippo Bolognese Images
stephan markus albrecht
more coming soon!