Advancing into the 21st century as architects enables us to explore and deliver an increasing number of sustainable approaches to architecture and the building industry. Whilst previously, concrete and steel have been predominately used throughout the construction industry, architects are now beginning to realise the importance of new technologies, such as timber, and use them for efficient construction, sustainability and cost effective purposes.
In a recent international competition, architects Gilles Retsin and Stephan Markus Albrecht, were selected among 20 finalists for the extension of the Meistersingerhalle, located in Nuremberg, Germany. The architects collaborated with Bollinger-Grohmann engineers, Transsolar climate engineers and acoustic specialists such as Theatre Projects, to design what is to be the world’s first concert hall building constructed using cross laminated timber (CLT).
The concert hall is located in the Bavaria region of Germany, which is known for being one of Europe’s largest forestry regions, sourcing types of timber for construction purposes. This convenient location allowed the materials for the project to be sourced locally and efficiently. The timber will be manufactured off site in a factory setting and transported during the construction phase to the site, producing a quick assembly of CLT sheets and ensuring a cost and time effective building process. The prefabricated CLT modules used for the design, will be produced using CNC machines and industrial robots within the factory.
The building form comprises of an upper mass designed with CLT modules and the lower basement and cores designed in concrete. Whilst timber construction could have been utilised for the cores, there is still controversy in the way of thinking around this within the industry for fire purposes, and the cores were left as concrete. The design continues to push the boundaries for CLT construction, and the engineers, Bollinger Grohmann, were able to achieve 9m cantilevers to the main lobby spaces, usually only achieved through the use of steel and reinforced concrete. To achieve this outcome the engineers used an innovative sleeve connection detail in the glass façade which absorbs and deflects and movement of the timber construction over a period of time.
The building program orients itself around the central concert hall and is designed from the inside out. The concert hall is the benchmark for the building’s program and structure, starting with large timber frames that orient and cantilever outwards, framing the supporting spaces and lobbies. The architectural outcome can be understood as an engineered timber monolith, where walls, ceilings and columns follow the same organisational logic throughout the building. To continue the inside-out logic the concert hall is closed off with a glass façade, allowing the building to be understood from all sides, exposing its inner elements to the public.
For acoustic isolation purposes, concert halls are usually designed using a box-in-box system. This method of construction typically refers to the main building structure becoming independent from the secondary structure which is acoustically insulated in areas that are prone to noise. Acoustic consultants Theatre Projects developed an alternative approach where a composite wall is created from two layers of 150mm CLT plates with rockwool insulation sandwiched in-between. This allows the heavy mass of timber to deliver the same acoustic quality and vibration absorption as concrete.
Design Team: Gilles Retsin and Stephan Markus Albrecht with Nicola Schunter, Isaie Bloch, Kristof Gavrielidis, Johan Wijesinghe
Structural engineering: Bollinger + Grohmann (Paris, France): Klaas De Rycke, Hannah Franz
Fire consultants: Bollinger + Grohmann (Frankfurt, Germany): Frauke Schiffner
Landscape: Djao-Rakitine (London, England): Irene Djao-Rakitine, Federica Terenz
Climate Consultants: Transsolar (Stuttgart, Germany): Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Matthias Rudolph
Acoustics & theatre Consultants: Theatre Projects (Paris, France): Sebastien Jouan, Mark Stroomer
Mep consultants: pbs Ingenieure GmbH (Köngen, Germany): Robert Preußler
Cost Consultants: Wenzel+Wenzel (Stuttgart, Germany): Ina Karbon
Transport: Fichtner Water and Transportation (Stuttgart, Germany): Dr. Markus Weise
Renderings: Filippo Bolognese (Milan, Italy)
Client: City of Nuremberg (Bavaria, Germany)