German Environment Agency
Energy efficiency, an organic design vocabulary and transparency – with the German Environment Agency in Dessau-Roßlau, the Berlin-based architectural firm Sauerbruch Hutton succeeded in giving architectural expression to the authority’s mission. The office building was constructed in 2005 as a model project of the federal government. The architects were tasked with responding technically and aesthetically to issues of climate change and, beyond that, to sustainably bolster urban development in the shrinking city. With their ecologically thought-out design, the architects were awarded the commission in 1998.
Thanks to its efficient external insulation and rigorous use of renewable energies, the administration building nearly meets the energy standard of a passive house. An open atrium with water basins and plants ensures a pleasant climate inside and provides the office spaces with sufficient daylight. A complexly folded glass roof spans the entire atrium, which also serves to ventilate the building. In addition to the German Environment Agency itself, the four-storey main building houses a library, a lecture hall and several seminar rooms. The façade shimmers colourfully: seven colour families, each derived from the site’s immediate surroundings, infuse the eight horizontal bands of wood and glass that encircle the building.
The location, on the disused site of a former gas appliance factory, was deliberately chosen to demonstrate sustainable urban planning: the contaminated areas were remediated at great expense, and existing industrial buildings were integrated into the new building. The disused Wörlitz railway station, also located on the property, was formerly the gateway to the Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Kingdom, forming the border between city and landscape. Much of the green space around it is now again public parkland.
The German Environment Agency confidently occupies its place in the immediate vicinity of Walter Gropius’s historic Bauhaus buildings. It has received numerous awards, including the German Architecture Prize, the Timber Construction Award and gold certification by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). [DB/DK]