Amandus Samsøe Sattler is a German architect and a photographer with a wide range of art photography documents. In 1987, he cofounded (with Markus Allmann and Ludwig Wappner) the Munich-based architecture company Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten. He lectures at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Nancy, and the Institute of Architectural Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. His works focus on the future of urban planning and the coexistence of architecture and society. allmannsattlerwappner.de
Laka: The methods behind your office’s works are described as “context-aware design” and a “dialectical approach.” Can you elaborate more on those methodologies?
Amandus: Architecture is an expression of society. This is why we find it relevant to look at the context of society when designing architecture. Architecture has the possibility to support and influence societal processes. Context frames the task in a very literal way—the city, the investor, the inhabitant all have issues stemming from society—and we want to solve these issues with a strong design idea. We are a design-driven architectural company, and our ideas for design arise from the context and not from a form-driven idea of a certain design or shape. Context-aware design and a dialectical approach are the signature features of our project development process. The dialectical approach allows us to conceive the opposite during the design process—to question our expectations and formulate our conversations.
In the design of Deichmanske Library for Oslo, you proposed an approach which you compared to the structure of a tree—without a particular orientation, and “deeply rooted in the ground, nurtured vertically and branching out on the horizontal plane.” What constitutes a decision on the approach to the context in specific locations?
Exactly this decision—how we interpret the context with a design answer—is the reason one wins or loses a competition.… Do you meet the expectations of the people involved? Can you surprise them with another view? Your interpretation of the context has to attract interest and gain recognition. At our office, the decision is made by the design director involved in each project from the very beginning, and later also by consulting in the execution phase. A design decision is often constituted if the design is comprehensive. In the Oslo Library for instance, the idea was to show the social exchange and hierarchies of the inner structure in the façade.
What are the main organizational challenges when leading a design office with employees from such a number and variety of backgrounds?
It changes all the time. I have enjoyed the last couple of years, when we, the three founding partners, have found a good way to involve the newer generations in our company: sharing experiences and responsibility with younger colleagues—and also being open and allowing new ideas and approaches ourselves. One specific challenge is to explicitly communicate and represent the DNA of the company to the new generations. Our DNA is to have strong conceptual ideas and to have the courage, skills, and power to detail strong ideas and turn them into built architecture.
Fig. 01 ‘Residential towers Friends at Hirschgarten’: the building connects residential and communal spaces inside. The living space is arranged around a centrally located hub with the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room.
Referring to your works in the field of branding, the scale of the exemplary Audi Corporate Architecture is just impressive! More than 750 Audi Terminals have been implemented according to the feasibility studies and design guidelines researched by your company. What are the essential phases of research on such a scale?
The most important thing in the international competition for the global Audi Corporate Architecture for their showrooms and stores was to find a special element, which refers to the brand values of the company and affects the clients in an emotional way, which can be understood worldwide. Our special element is the curve—it is a symbol for the dynamic of the automobile and brings the distinctive shape of the windows in the façade. The sharp cut of the windows makes the metal mesh of the façade even more blurry and focuses your eyes on the cars in the windows. That is an interesting contrast. Decisive for worldwide success is the modular concept of the building, which allows it to react to any urban situation and any demand of the dealer about the size and elements.
In what ways should city centers develop to meet such increasing demands? What are other areas and aspects of cities’ development on which similar efforts should be focused?
In general, in Germany, we are pursuing the goal of densifying our cities, and at the same time also strengthening the rural areas to make it attractive to go back to abandoned villages. I believe the general answer is not to build more new but to use what we already have. It is true that the world population is growing—but we could put this up for debate. We should consider if the earth can withstand the consumption of another billion people in the future.
Fig.03 ‘Annette-Allee’: an office building situated in Münster, Germany. The building consists of a top-floor recess and distinctive cut-outs in its overall form.
It seems that besides the general development of the ideas of architecture, the technologies and materials dedicated to façades are becoming increasingly important as well. Can you tell us how your company incorporated those opportunities in the Inselparkhalle in Hamburg?
Yes, that is true, we are interested in the development of the façade, and each building of ours has a special theme related to the façade. This is where we explore and research the possibilities of existing, as well as new materials. The Inselparkhalle is an example of a project where we took the theme one step further. We gave each of the four sides of the sports hall and swimming pool each a different concept for the façade. We had already tried this idea out successfully in another sports hall in Tübingen—it works well for both large and simple sports buildings to conceive four different sides. Thereby, you break down the large dimensions.
Fig. 04 ‘Dornier’s Aviation and Aerospace Museum’ links the history of aviation to modern-day air traffic thanks to its location next to Friedrichshafen Airport.
On the one hand, there is a contextual value of the design: the connections of the building with its surroundings are solved via four different façades. And on the other, it takes full advantage of the spatial possibilities that such solutions provide. That is the whole wall, which “disappears” on demand…
In Hamburg, each façade react to its physical context: We made a wooden façade oriented to the neighboring ‘House of the Woods.’ Many people sit outside here, and the scale is minimized and has a certain warmth and quality that encourages you to stay. At the front side towards the water, the façade is constructed of different layers of metal, allowing the situation of the signage, vertical greenery, and the entrance. Towards the southeast is the polycarbonate heating collector, and finally, the fourth façade towards the meadow is made of steel and glass and is completely openable. It opens in the summer, connecting the indoor swimming pool with the outside and turning it into an open-air bath. That is great for a public bath built on a tight budget.
What are some other technological solutions that seem particularly interesting to you when it comes to innovative spatial and functional ideas?
We become interested in a technical solution when it serves design and the environment. Right now, we are exploring low-tech and natural techniques—again!—such as brick and wood. Saving resources and consumption also means buildings with good design and long livability.
Fig. 05 ‘Construction depot’ consists of two buildings. One includes workshops, communal spaces, and administrative offices, and the other, a vehicle depot, a repair shop, and a vehicle wash facility.
What decides the success of designs such as high-rise buildings in the new Europacity district in Berlin and ‘Am Münchner Tor’ in Munich? Is it possible to outline the general list of “good practices” for designs that are to function as landmarks and “gateways” to districts or even whole cities?
Both projects are high-rises with high visibility. We are interested in the differentiation in the detail, meaning how a building can offer beauty and make sense not only from a distance but also when walking close by or using it inside. A high-rise office building with a small footprint has a built-in restriction that limits the flexibility and influences the special qualities of the workingspaces and the flow between floors and areas. This has to be overcome in a well-done floor plan. To us, a high rise is also a brick in city plaster—much more than a unique, iconic building.
Picture credits: pp. 199, 200, 203 figs. 01-05: Allmann Sattler Wappner; pp. 199, 200, 203 figs. 01, 02, 04: photo by Brigida Gonzales; p. 200 fig. 03: photo by Günther Wett/FRENER & REIFER Metallbau; p. 203 fig. 05: photo by Florian Holzherr.
This is an excerpt from the Laka Perspectives book vol. 02, published by Laka Foundation (non-profit, Poland) in 2019 with the support of Solarlux GmbH (Germany): www.lakaperspectives.com; https://www.instagram.com/laka.perspectives/