The Graz-based design collective SPLITTERWERK was commissioned to design this headquarters building for PRISMA Engineering, a machine and motor technology company also located in Graz. The objective was to design a structure which could house the company’s various research and development programs, and selectively showcase the work to a varied range of often competing clientele. Thus the building design needed to accommodate both high- end testing and presentation without jeopardizing the security and secrecy with which the work is developed.
The building form approximates a cube, measuring 18.125 x 18.125 x 17m, wrapped on all four elevations with a pixilated pattern of square panels. From a distance, these panels appear to be painted in a range of ten values of grey tone, together dematerializing the volume of the building against both the trees of the surrounding site and the clouds and sky. Thus the cubic building is at once monumental in its objecthood in the open landscape – scale-less and immaterial – and yet utterly non-iconographic in its overall form.
As is characteristic of their work, SPLITTERWERK was interested in developing a play between pictorial image and spatial experience. Working with the effects of dimension, distance, and time, the building’s skin was designed to generate shifting perceptions of the volume and texture. As one approaches the building, the cubic proportions of the volume become apparent, as does the finer grain of surface articulation on each panel, comprised not of a single grey tone but rather a tight grid of abstract pictorial figures. These figures might be interpreted as flowers, speaking to the surrounding fields, or gear wheels, suggestive of the highly secretive work happening inside the building. Each façade panel is itself nearly square, measuring 67 x 71.5-cm, and made of powder-coated aluminum, screen-printed with the various images. Integrated within this field of figures, deployed at the scale of both panel and building, windows and doors are similarly considered such that they essentially disappear within the composition of the façade.
At the interior, individual office spaces are wallpapered with images of the surrounding Eastern Styrian landscape, creating a conceptual tension between the interior of the building envelope (narrative and pictorial) and the visual effects of its exterior panels (abstract and spatial). In this sense, the decorative strategy for both interior and exterior is conceived with certain landscape sensibilities in mind; a visual context which is simultaneously pictorial in its framed references and affective in the atmosphere it produces.