The sleek two-storey laboratory building, designed by pbr Planungsbüro Rohling AG, of Osnabrück, Germany, certainly looks impressive. It occupies the inner courtyard of the existing U-shaped operational building 04, the headquarters of the research and development division of Voestalpine Stahl GmbH, and houses an in-house research and development centre for the company’s steel-production operations. 

The façade was manufactured as a flush-mount, smooth skin made of specially-coated sheet steel. This is punctuated by silver-coated frameless window elements, which lend the structure a gleaming, crystal-like surface. The building sits in stark contrast to the existing main brick research buildings, to which it is joined via a bridging structure. 

The highly polished façade was produced via an innovative four-layer Vollack construction technique in a brilliant silver finish. The coating was developed as an exterior automobile coating with BASF Coatings, and this is its first application on a construction project.

One of the company’s primary intentions, according to a spokesperson for Voestalpine, was “the outer manifestation of its own research findings”. The colour of the cladding was selected to maximise the contrast between the new building and the surrounding, principally brick, existing structures. The material was produced on-site. It provided, says Voestalpine, “a prescheduled testing phase of the production process”.

Inside, laboratories are partially glazed towards a hallway, so research work is visible to customers. Open working structures and generously spaced meeting points create a communicative, open atmosphere, says Voestalpine. These meeting points, and the conference rooms in the bridge to the older buildings, are distinguished from the other work areas by wood trim and a wooden floor. 

A modern heating system captures heat from the steel manufacturing process, and non-steel materials and components were selected on the basis of sustainability and durability.

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