Leipzig Trade Fair
The Leipzig Trade Fair is an impressive building complex that picks up on the great glass architecture of the 19th century and further develops it in a contemporary way. The exhibition and congress centre, built between 1993 and 1996 according to plans by the renowned Hamburg architectural firm of Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp), comprises 111,900 square metres of exhibition space in five buildings and a landscaped park with an additional 70,000 square metres of exhibition space. The emblematic symbol of the complex is the vaulted Glass Hall, or Entrance Hall West, which is Europe’s largest fully glazed structure.
With a trading history that dates back more than 850 years, Leipzig is one of the oldest trading cities in the world. Until 1991, the Leipzig Trade Fair was located close to the city centre in the south-eastern part of town. For better connections to the autobahn and the airport, the complex was relocated to the city's northern outskirts, in a two-kilometre-long valley, an urban no-man’s land. The Leipzig Trade Fair was the largest single construction project completed as part of the “Aufbau Ost” rebuilding campaign after German reunification.
The most striking building on the fairgrounds is the centrally sited Glass Hall, whose steel and glass architecture was created by the office of gmp in collaboration with London-based architect Ian Ritchie. With its height of 30 metres, span of 80 metres and length of 244 metres, the vaulted hall is a building of superlatives, an artful combination of architecture and engineering. 25,000 square metres of glass are held in supported by a steel structure that spans a vast space without any columns. The glass skin of the building is completely smooth, as the 6,546 glass panes are framed using a “structural glazing” technology with no expansion joints.
The Trade Fair’s great Glass Hall stands in the tradition of buildings such as Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, built for the 1851 World Exhibition in London.
By making reference to motifs of 19th-century exhibition hall construction, the architects are reflecting the historical significance of Leipzig as a trade fair centre. At the same time, the impressive vault – which set new standards for building physics as well as technology – also symbolises the “bridge building” that was German reunification. [KL/DK]