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The Eiermann Building, Apolda

Apolda, Germany
The Egon Eiermann building.jpg
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depicted item: The Egon Eiermann buildingImage credit: https://iba-thueringen.de/formate/die-geschichte-des-egon-eiermann-baus/die-geschichte-des-egon-eiermann-baus-in-apolda

The project by Egon Eiermann is a skillful combination of old and new. The existing old factory consisted of a 4-storey-building (designed by the architect Hermann Schneider for the textile production of the company "Borgmann & Co." in 1906/07 and extended in 1919) and a 1-storey extension (1936/37, architect Adolf Bauer) [4, S.166]. The visible, supporting concrete grit divided the main building into 11 bays (12 axes) and the extension into 8 bays (9 axes). In the main building the rooms in the first 9 bays on the last floor were lower (2,20m), only in the last, later added 2 bays (1919) were they as high as in the lower floors (about 4m). Its facades were dominated by the supporting concrete structure, which is often found in industrial buildings since the beginning of the 20th century. The bays fillings are of masonry and separate windows.

Eiermann puts his extension on top of the old one-storey building. On the last floor he takes up the 4m height and on top he adds a floating roof, which gave the building a decisive, modern appearance. Furthermore a new stair-case with sanitary rooms was added on the back facade.

Eiermann retains the principal of composition with the visible supporting grit on the facades and with it he adopts the basic concept of grit and filling and the choice of materials. But in the bays of the new building, he increases the glass by filling the bays with a large window, keeping only a low window parapet in brickwork. Using different types of openings the windows are graphically subdivided [4, S.174]. Eiermann leaves the exterior design of the old building parts mainly unchanged. Only into the two bays, where old and new are linked together, he puts partly new windows (street facade). Furthermore he removes details to stress the concrete grit of the old building parts in order to unit the old and new parts [4, S.170; 5, S.50].

Because of the former end wall the space inside the factory is largely divided into old and new parts, but functions and floor plan were organised continuously: In the lower 3 floors production halls were situated with an area of 1100m² each. Here the 12m wide building is divided by two column rows into a middle aisle and 2 room halves. In the 4th floor commonly used facilities for the staff were located: dressing and washing rooms in the old part, canteen and multifunction room in the new building. Here Eiermann chose a different static solution: Using a frame-construction he created a column-free interior space. It had a blue tessellated floor, a light blue ceiling and white walls. The parquet of the dancing area was made of matt red beech-tree. [about colours: 1, S.562] The covered roof-terrace with its deck chairs and its greenery was designed as a sun lounge for the recreation of the workers.

Construction:Concerning his choice of the constructional principal Eiermann depended on the existing 1-storey building, onto which he added his new floors. In the upper floors he uses with the concrete skeleton the same static system as in the old building part. But in the upper floor Eiermann applied a concrete frame construction to create a broad, column-free interior. The construction of the seemingly floating sundeck is modern as well. [for construction details see 1, S.599f]

Context:For the roof terrace Eiermann might have taken the hotel in Zlin (Vladmir Karfik, 1932/33) or the airport-restaurant in Schkeuditz (Hans Wittwer, 1931) as examples [4, S.174, 177]


General assessment:The factory is recognized as a milestone in the history of modern industrial building in Germany during the 1930s.Furthermore it can be considered as an excellent example for a careful and respectful dealing with existing structures when adding new parts. Eiermann reached a harmony between the old and the new, although the new parts are designed uncompromisingly modern.

Technical:Construction of the upper floor and the floating roof. Special details for greenery

Social:The combination of work and recreation for he workers was an important aim of the architect. The upper floor – where usually administration and management are situated – belonged in Apolda to the workers. The terrace on the roof was designed for their recreation, too. Such a terrace is outstanding for an industrial building at that time. But it must not be forgotten, that this fits the idea, common among the Nazis, that light and air increase the output of the workers. [4, S.135]

Cultural & Aesthetic:The modern extension of the old factory is solved in a very convincing aesthetic way. Although forming a unified design, the distinction of old and new is clearly possible.

The factory in Apolda is an early example in the work of Eiermann, where he reached the fusion of engineering and art, which became a typical feature for this architect.

HistoricalExample that modernism in architecture in the industrial building was continuing during the Nazi-time.

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