The Regional Industrial Heritage Organization of Solingen, Germany has called for a competition to redevelop the local observation using an old spherical gas container in order to address the strong industrial character and historical context of the container and the local architecture. The following project is an entry from René van Zuuk Architekten. More on this project after the break.
The site is located on the edge of a residential area near a railroad, from which the steel spire of the old gas container is visible. With a diameter of 26 metres the container has a frame of eleven columns that rest on 3m high concrete foundations. The original design is pragmatic in its approach. A sphere was used as the most efficient model with the largest surface area available to function at the lowest cost. The staircase was built with the same functional consideration as the rest of the building and it follows that, to use the existing spherical structure, the new design would have to be approached with the same rigor.
The proposal will occupy the existing structure with an entrance to a back office, an entrance hall for 80 people, exhibition space with a planetarium and an observatory in the hemisphere. The base of the sphere is cut to provide an opening within the foundation that provides space for an entrance hall. Presentation rooms, offices and general amenities are located on the same level. These spaces open out on to a patio that provides light to an otherwise sheltered area of the project.
The landscape is sculpted to the height of the foundation wall in order to compliment the spherical profile. The entrance begins with a series of steps rising up through the void on the first and second floors are two open exhibition floors. The third floor contains the planetarium and the observatory is located at the top of the sphere; here there is a second cut in the existing structure which allows the telescope to rotate without being obstructed. On top of the dome is an antenna with a laser to be used to give focus to the user. The existing structure has been calculated to support its functions, however, there is an additional exoskeleton structure which supports the structure from the outside. A steel tube in the centre is to be used as an elevator shaft which will help support the buildings new uses.