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  7. Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects

Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects

  • 01:00 - 15 January, 2009
Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects
Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects

Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects +22

  • Architects

  • Location

    Karlsruhe, Germany
  • Architects

    J. MAYER H. Architects
  • Project Team

    Juergen Mayer H., Andre Santer, Julia Neitzel, Sebastian Finckh, Wilko Hoffmann, Marcus Blum
  • Architect On Site

    Ulrich Wiesler
  • Multidisciplinary Engineers

    ARUP GmbH
  • Landscape Architects

    Karl Bauer, Karlsruhe
  • Client

    Vermoegen und Bau, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Amt Karlsruhe
  • Area

    3500.0 sqm
  • Project Year


From the architect. A new canteen for the Technical College, Teacher Training College and the State Academy for Fine Art has been completed north of the Moltkestrasse. This new address will form an attractive new centre for the campus where the disciplines can meet, eat and exchange ideas.

The canteen's location in the Moltkestrasse in the transitional zone between the built up campus to the south and the natural open space of the Hartwald Forest to the north. This is a spot where the character of the campus area is particularly clear. The orientation of the building, with its generously glazed facades, is toward the urban life of the campus, from where the diners arrive.

The dissolution of the structure into stem-like posts shows an associative relationship to the wooded areas nearby and creates an atmospheric transition between the buildings to the south and the shady forest to the north.

The conceptual approach to the project started from the sculptural idea of taking the largest buildable plot of land, cleaving it from the ground and organizing the functions of the canteen inside the rift created. From this came the mass of stringy stem-like supports that form between the two plates as they are pulled apart, as a logical conclusion of the idea of the separation of the two horizontal planes. In this way, the roof of the building is also covered with grass, to follow the concept of a cleft plot of land lifted into the air, as well as to help create a sustainable building.

The canteen itself is composed of a generous, high and bright dining hall to the south and a compact functional area to the north, containing kitchens, storage and services.

The dining hall is augmented by a shaded veranda to the south and a wind shielded terrace overlooking the Englaenderplatz, creating a flexible combination of interior and exterior dining space to suit all weather conditions. A cafeteria in the south west of the dining area can be run independently of the main canteen functions and, with its longer opening hours, offers considerable amenity to this focal point within the campus.

The layered openings of the façade are carried through to the interior of the canteen building. The colonnaded structural parallels create a depth of shifting layered perforations, where one can look through or be sheltered, referring again to the nearby forest. A spatial quality is created that plays on the themes of large scale transition from culture to nature, echoed in smaller of scale in the preparation and consumption of food.

Stagecraft can exist only in the presence of an audience; current sociology blurs the distinction between performer and observer- similarly the diners at the large, campus oriented canteen form a part of their college lives at once as actors and audience in one space, a place that embodies the public nature of communal eating as well as that most intimate, primitive act of eating, common to and yet different for everybody.

In this respect the canteen is a processional, transformational space.

The cost effective and sustainable construction of the building consists of a solid internal concrete core surrounded by a structural polyurethane coated wooden network of columns carrying the roof and façade. This technology has until now been used almost exclusively in the restoration of flat roofing systems as well as multi storey car parks and bridges. Being both waterproof and breathable, the polyurethane allows the laminated wooden construction underneath to breathe. The tough elastic coating will also tolerate expansion of the wood. The polyurethane bonds with the structure to form a surface which resists mechanical pressure and, unlike varnished and lacquered surfaces, resists the infiltration of moisture.

The vertical glazing of the façade openings is held vertically on both sides and contains permanent elastic horizontal expansion joints. The edges of the glazed areas are framed in profiles which protrude slightly from the surface of the façade. The load bearing verticals are internally anchored into the wooden structure.

This innovative approach to proven materials and construction make the canteen a prototype for the possibilities of today's technologies in times of shrinking public building budgets, demanding criteria and restrictive technical requirements. The high standard of design and function remain uncompromised by the sparing use of resources and materials.

This process has resulted in the unconventional plastic appearance of the building, challenging expectations of stucco, masonry or glass and steel facades, creating an unexpected new face for a public building.

The Moltke Canteen is an essential new cornerstone in the identity of the college campus, the city of Karlsruhe and the state of Baden-Württemburg, which from its inception has attracted local and international attention.

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "Mensa Moltke / J. Mayer H. Architects" 15 Jan 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


stucco drywall winnipeg · March 18, 2012

I have fun with, lead to I found just what I used to be looking for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

Saeed · March 15, 2012

it could be so beautiful if out side of the builing was sharp or even black and use light in order to exagerate the diffrent part of structure.

By the way well done.


Rodrigo Ferreira · August 20, 2010

Então é assim... Copiaram o meu TFG:

Edgard Georges · July 19, 2010

Excelente! RT @afonsocondi

Afonso Condi · July 19, 2010
stipsa · June 18, 2009

nice Gaudi concept, form leads to the great composition.

2MACoff · May 28, 2009

???? ?????? ???? ?? ????? ?? ?????????!

Tarek sakkal · May 05, 2009


Richie · April 08, 2009


teco · January 21, 2009

by any means, a building can not afford to be a building over musculated. this building looks like a Schwarzenegger-toyo ito type.
by that i mean mean it is overcosmetizised. it is just make up.
lets look the plan: it is a simple one.
why so much effort in make it look complex- computerized-caded-contemporary-yellow?
it is a simple- low needs floor plan .
the structure reducess the usefull space.
i consider that it is an awfull overstructured piece of non modeled idea.

shamb · January 20, 2009

The Leonardo cube is not carried by its colums, but its inner cube..

xing · January 19, 2009

Could anyone give me a more professional description of : "a structural polyurethane coated wooden network "? Actually, I see this definition in his another project in Spain, the metropal parasol too.

The Hawk · January 19, 2009

This is a shocker. Imagine eating here? Its not a 3d chewing gum model, its been rationalised and has lost the idea. The reality seems sterile.

Ethel Baraona Pohl · January 17, 2009

This message is for Rocket Valentino, here is an update about the Metropol Parasol in Sevilla:


atlas · January 17, 2009

I have studied both the Mensa building by JHM, and the 3Deluxe Glass project, considering how they were assembled from the facade materials specified. In initially contacting JHM to ask how the design was achieved, both for the Mensa, as well as the proposed construction details for the Turkish Embassy concept [Pol Oxygen mag #26] I was interested in whether these buildings were precast concrete covered with tile [i.e Sydney Opera House roofline] or not.

As this article and subsequent information show, JHM employed concrete, timber and polyurethane, very different materials to that of 3Deluxe who were successful experimenting with a new product by LG Chem which is a form of polymer acrylic combined with ground stone. According to the LG website they melted and stretched the product to achieve that unique 'chewing gum' interior detail, in addition to the similar facade detail, so of course you are going to get a different result if the materials specified are so diverse.

Whilst I think this website is great, due to the access to section drawings etc, for these exceptional projects where such amazing results were achieved, I really think more emphasis needs to be made of the selection of materials employed. This will help those studying such projects, as well as helping to to explain they were built.

Rokas · January 17, 2009

agree with pedja-partialy.An interesting thought,but theres no eegance

Rocket Valentino · January 16, 2009

This building really disappointed me. I remember being rather excited about the first concepts with the Nutella-sandwich, but it seems completely lost (due to costs, perhaps?). Also, the outer expression makes me expect a less rigid and pragmatic plan. I think it works much better from the inside, and wouldn't mind having my lunch there some day.

Totally agree with Kim and Chris regarding the Leonardo Cube.

Does anyone know how things are going with Metropol Parasol in Sevilla? I think it's going to be spectacular!

JDR · January 16, 2009

This is both horrible and interesting...
but I got bored looking for the interesting part withoutit being horrible... :s

archipoo · January 16, 2009

Completely different approach between the two. JMH is using more or less a consistent layering of sections, that evolves out of the boundaries of the cube, while 3-deluxe uses a free-form web in the inside and considers the box perimeter as a 'traditional' boundary, that flattens the profiles. No judgement on who pushes anything further. But even if 3deluxe is more elegant, JMH is way more consistent in his approach as he does not have to change the stategy, once it hits the boundary.

pedja · January 16, 2009


chris · January 16, 2009

I agree kim. this isn't up to par. I feel like the structure is way too imposing, at least from the images. The leonardo cube pulls this style off much more elegantly.

Kim · January 16, 2009

You are right Roadkill, and 3deluxe's project has pushed further the study on columns and exterior treatment. J. Mayer H. Architects are usually very talented with putting into form their ideas, but lost some strenght this time on this one, from concept to finised building.
Both projects were done at the same time.

Contemporary Art · January 16, 2009

It looks like Roman numerals. I'm not totally sure of the color, but the form is interesting. It would definitely be nice to eat with such high ceilings.

roadkill · January 16, 2009

kinda reminds me of the leonardo glass cube:


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