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Architecture from a bird's eye view!

World Cement,

Thierry BOGAERT [BOGAERT’ ARCHITECTURE], based in Paris, France, is mainly active in the industrial sector, bringing him into a variety of situations where factories need to be designed to blend in with the landscape and the urban and social environment. Lafarge Zement called on his expertise to create a sleek image for its new preheater tower in Wössingen, Germany. Here, he describes the project requirements and outcome.

“Today, a preheater tower can be seen (or imposed or admired, depending on your point of view) for miles around. The majestic structure and its tremendous visual impact concerns everyone, whether stakeholders or spectators. The tower's physical emergence may be perceived as a constraint, but in a more positive light, it should be construed as an extraordinary opportunity to spotlight its performance and its awareness of the landscape and social environment.

“In Wössingen, we have been contacted some way into the project, when the tower was already under construction. The challenge therefore involved creating an image that avoided any impression of having been artificially stuck to the tower, but which rather became one with the structure's framework. The goal was to reflect the structure's technical character and performance, whilst respecting the natural environment (landscape) and urban setting (the village of Wössingen) in which the plant is located, and striving to fulfil the latter's ongoing ambition of presenting itself in the best possible light.

“Before we came onboard, the decision had already been taken to clad two adjacent sides of the tower - the two sides most exposed from the environment. This concept was clearly the right choice given that the plant can obviously be seen from two different viewpoints - to the northwest from the main access road to the plant and to the southwest from the village of Wössingen, which is virtually a stone's throw from the plant. From other directions, the plant can practically only be seen by itself.

“Operating with limited leeway, we still needed to give the structure an architectural material and choose a design. We decided to focus on the edge of the tower by working on a significant graphical design to allow each side to complement and play off each other. The recurring graphic theme - the oblique line - engendered a perpetual and dynamic form of dialogue between both profiles. As the day grows longer and according to the whims of the weather, the play of light brings the tower to life, offering an ever-changing show. The steady rhythm given to the layout of the graphical components emphasises the industrial aspect (industrialisation = repetitiveness) and mechanical nature of the tower. The German setting - the homeland of precision engineering - influenced the decision to combine rigour with aesthetics.

“The artistic dimension produced by the design satisfies the psychological function, the added value of architecture. Everyone, whether stakeholder or spectator, can appropriate himself the work and take satisfaction in noting that the best has been done to preserve and to embellish his living environment.

“Finally, the project's constraints represented a singular project that has opened up new horizons for designing industrial facilities as landmarks.”

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