Founded in 1996 in Berlin, J. MAYER H. focuses on works at the intersection of architecture, communication and new technology. From urban planning schemes and buildings to installation work and objects with new materials, the relationship between the human body, technology and nature form the background for a new production of space.
One of their recent projects is the dining hall at Karlsruhe University. Mensa Karlsruhe is an elastic space, that sits in the centre of the Karlsruhe University Campus. As an extension of the already existing facilities, the city of Karlsruhe wanted a canteen that would serve the growing number of students. The building became the new address of the campus, negotiating between the identities of three universities as well as between the urban fabric and the forest. The building reacts to this special condition with different stages of porosity.
The entire frame of the building is made of laminated wooden beams and pillars. These are clad with a polyurethane skin which is yellow on the outside and green on the inside. It conceals the seams while emphasizing the project's abstract and graphic appearance.
The porosity of the façades depends on their orientation. The building contains the dining rooms, kitchens and an array of public spaces. This implies a spiral circulation through the building, which rises to a terrace overlooking the soccer pitch where the German national team played several matches at the beginning of the 20th century.
The concept of the design is taking two slabs stuck together and detaching them by the effect of a force. The connections left between the two planes allow a modulation of different levels of porosity on the exterior, thereby linking the building to the campus' surrounding area and to the forest opposite.
The interiors are painted in various shades of green to underline the different uses of the rooms. Complementary colours are used for specific furniture. In the words of the architect, it is hoped that large numbers of students may cross paths, get to know one another and maybe even fall in love. That people should associate the heart with a designed place is the best reward for an architecture conceived to be a part of contemporary life.
The construction period was from December 2004 up to January 2007. Mensa Karlsruhe started operating on March 12th 2007.
Team J. MAYER H.:
Jürgen Mayer H., Andre Santer, Sebastian Finckh, Julia Neitzel, Wilko Hoffmann, Jan Stockebrand, Marcus Blum
with the following collaborators:
ARUP, Berlin (structural engineering)
Martin Scherer (Kitchen Engineer),
Uli Wiesler (Works supervisor),
Klaus Wiederkehr (Landscape Architect),
Photos courtesy of J.Mayer H.
This article was first published in 2ModernTalk on the 25th of August 2007.