The Merck Innovation Center in Darmstadt

Interview with Martin Henn and Thomas Goldhammer

Merck Innovation Center
Darmstadt, Germany

Architect: Martin Henn, HENN, Berlin, Germany
Acoustics: Thomas Goldammer, Mueller-BBM, Berlin, Germany

Openness calls for extremes

HENN architects in Berlin have created the “Merck Innovation Center” to promote interdisciplinary work and the innovative power of the company. For excellent acoustics, HENN architects collaborated with the experts from Mueller-BBM.

The cooperation between HENN and Mueller-BBM brought about the “Merck Innovation Center”. What made your collaboration special?

Martin Henn: Mueller-BBM is a very renowned office that has successfully advised on acoustics and implemented many well-known projects. Our cooperation is characterized by mutual respect and appreciation. During the work on Merck Innovation Center, we stayed closely in touch to develop a convincing overall design based on the specific brief.

Thomas Goldammer: As an acoustic consultant you often intervene in the design. The cooperation with HENN is invariably characterized by a creative process that allows us to realize sophisticated architecture without losing sight of functionality. It is therefore sometimes questioned whether the recommended measures are really necessary. Our cooperation is not about enforcing principles, but about finding the best solution for the building.


Had you worked together before?

Martin Henn: For many years we have been working successfully with Mueller-BBM, be it on research laboratories, office buildings or concert halls. Current projects include the headquarters for Zalando and an office building in the Europacity in Berlin. It was therefore a logical step for us to talk to Mueller-BBM about the Merck Innovation Center.

Thomas Goldammer: In projects with HENN, we often not only implement the acoustics, but also cooperate in the fields of thermal insulation, energy balance and building climate studies. I first got in touch with HENN to plan the Autostadt in Wolfsburg.

Which ideas for a design or a detail did you approach Mueller-BBM with?

Martin Henn: We approached Mueller-BBM with an abstract spatial structure. In addition, there was the requirement to accommodate a café and work areas in this huge space continuum. Relatively few areas were available for acoustic measures. Thomas Goldammer and his team could only focus on the ceiling and the floor. The challenge was mastered by Mueller-BBM with excellence.

Which qualities are important to you in this trade, Mr. Henn?

Martin Henn: Creativity and doing the best within the design scope. This was essential at the Merck Innovation Center, because the aim was to create spaces that would enable concentrated work. The requirements for offices are extremely demanding. Acoustics had to be specifically tuned in some areas to create an adequate atmosphere. The Mueller-BBM team was very creative and committed to this project.

When are you usually called in on a project, Mr. Goldammer?

Thomas Goldammer: It depends on the project. When planning a concert hall, we should be there from the very first line drawn so that space volume and geometry are consistent. For office or laboratory buildings, we should be involved in the preliminary planning stage, because the desired standards of acoustics could have an effect on ceiling thickness and facade design. Substantial redesign may be the consequence if we are not consulted early enough. In some cases, it may even be necessary to refrain from high acoustic standards.

How often do projects require custom solutions?

Thomas Goldammer: Mueller-BBM planned several spectacular buildings with great acoustic challenges in the past – such as the Reichstag with its acoustically complex dome or the “Pierre Boulez Hall” in the Barenboim-Said Academy. We are often asked for solutions for which there is no precedent yet. In this respect, it is very useful that we can test components and materials on their acoustic properties in Planegg near Munich.

Which traits do you appreciate most in architects?

Thomas Goldammer: It is always a great satisfaction to participate in a project that turns an architect’s vision into reality. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a spectacular design. I appreciate it very much when a clear outline is recognisable on the large scale as well as in small details, and it is fun to find acoustic solutions together with the architect which meet this design principle.

What are the characteristics of the “Merck Innovation Center”?

Martin Henn: The Merck Innovation Center stands for the opening-up of the company. Frankfurter Straße widens into a public square and at the end of it the building conveys transparency and agility. The design is intended to promote innovation. It is a design that has been developed largely from the inside out. We developed the corresponding form based on the space allocation plan, which involves temporary and interdisciplinary cooperation between employees and external parties.

What was the project-specific brief and which solutions did you find for it?

Thomas Goldammer: The open spatial structure, which connects several storeys, is not without acoustic challenges, since noise transmits over several levels. We designed most of the ceiling areas to be sound-absorbing, although the requirement to use the ceilings for cooling also entailed restrictions. The optimum acoustics were achieved by means of a perforated metal ceiling. Acoustic simulations were made on a computer model.

What changes has the project undergone from initial planning to completion?

Thomas Goldammer: There has been a constant refinement. The design of the ceiling with visible, perforated acoustics and invisible acoustic plaster was evolving from phase to phase. In between, it was considered to separate the café on the ground floor from the foyer to eliminate disturbing noises from this area completely. Upon intensive discussions with Merck and the use of sound-absorbing wall surfaces in the café, no such measure was taken.

What was particularly important with regard to acoustics?

Thomas Goldammer: In addition to noise reduction, we also made sure that the loudspeaker announcements were clearly audible in the event of an alarm. Here, too, the open building structure posed a major challenge, as the loudspeaker transmissions from different storeys tend to mix up. Using electroacoustic simulations, we were able to determine the ideal type and the positions of the loudspeakers. HENN’s wish to position the loudspeakers behind the metal ceiling was also met.

Published on Juli 6, 2018
This interview was conducted by Martina Metzner, World-Architects