Project Area: 1,700 sqm Budget: 4,500,000 €
The client, the Technical Facilities Kaiserslautern (TWK), is a modern, medium-sized public utilities company, one of about 900 in Germany. Because of this the TWK is in a constant process of innovation and professionalization. Moreover, the TWK intends to be a transparent and open participant of society. The urgently needed renovation of the water purification plant “Rote Hohl” offered an excellent opportunity to publicly show the aspired professionalism, innovation and effort towards sustainability.
The Pfaelzer forest offers locals and visitors to the region attractive opportunities for daytrips. Apart from the main attraction, the forest itself, other touristic attractions include the Biosphere House in Fischbach and the House for Sustainability in Trippstadt. These houses contribute to the awareness for the environment and our natural resources. The water plant “Rote Hohl” will provide the region with water also after the renovation and upgrading. As the “House of Water” the building will provide information services to selected target groups about water, water collection, purification and distribution. The House of Water also offers space for exhibitions, workshops and events.
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The combination of water purification and information services about the natural resource water is logical, but also poses a challenge. The water plant “Rote Hohl” occupies a key position in the regional water distribution network. Public access to a place, that plays a crucial role in the supply of drink water to the city Kaiserslautern and its larger surroundings 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year is not an easy task. In the end people expect and demand a guaranteed supply of drinking water. Both the need for security and a secured, reliable product became an essential part of the technical and architectonical brief for the project.
The external appearance of the building needs to fulfill both conditions of security and express the new public function of the building adequately. Inside the existing building a spatially satisfactory solution could not be found. The existing building was enlarged with a single entrance space and a large awning. The silhouette of the new building has been kept low in order to secure the view of the forest. At the end of the access road the large awning offers welcoming protection from wind and rain. A light grey exposed concrete wall signals the entrance. A new wall, a steel structure fully clad with folded aluminum, is placed in front of the existing building. The selected color is quite dark. The wall gives off a closed impression and connotes security.
On the one hand this color emphasizes the clear form, on the other the building blends into the atmosphere of the forest. Seen from the inside the façade turns out to be perforated and appears transparent. Only near the entrance the existing building is still visible. This wall is painted bright grass green and becomes an extension of the adjacent slope: the House of Water is rooted in its surroundings. At night the perforations of the wall become visible on the outside and the building illuminates its surroundings. Like red eyed giants camera masts stand guard over this bright shimmering object. Although reserved during the day, the House of Water appears open at night and creates a secure, magical space in the darkness of the woods.
In the course of the technical planning of the installation by ARCADIS Consult some existing spaces became redundant, and consequently available. Early on the TWK recognized the potential of one of these spaces. Molter Architects proposed a concept which did not only consider this single space, but also activated all adjacent spaces. Crux of the concept is to relate the originally closed-off spaces to one another. Flow of movement becomes possible through new horizontal and vertical structural perforations. The technical areas of the actual water plant are also connected to the public area through a technical blue, large steel casing. Doors, originally placed flush, are placed deeper into the spaces. The hierarchy of spaces changes, new types of use present themselves. This effectively constituted the transformation from a water purification plant to the “House of Water”. Custom furniture and platforms offer various types of use. They can be either be used as normal seating or to display exhibition objects in space.
Architecture has almost completely lost her critical capacity. Architecture tends to restrict itself to self-referential topics like form or construction, or politically correct topics like sustainability or the environment. Architectural themes like safety and security probably would be a more fitting form of contextuality. However, constructed (concrete, fences) or high-tech (electronics) security measures are not capable of addressing the social need for psychological security. The project “House of Water” communicates security with the signs of architecture and thus creates the pre-conditions for merging the public works (drink water supply) and the public domain: appropriate architecture for uncertain times.