Fraunhofer Institute for
Microtribology Karlsruhe

Tribology deals with friction, with moving interactive surfaces. kister scheithauer gross (ksg) used this definition as basis for the façade design of the new building. Bronze-coloured anodised rhombuses clad the building and impressed the client and future users.

Project data:

Building Owner: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft – zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V., München
GFA: 1.650 m²
Dates: 2011 – 2016

VOF procedure 2011, 1st prize

In 2011, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft initiated the VOF procedure for the construction of a test stand building for the »MikroTribologie Centrum µTC« (Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials in Freiburg) based at the Mackensen Barracks and subsequently awarded the contract to kister scheithauer gross. The MikroTribologie Centrum (µTC) Karlsruhe researches and understands the scientific fundamentals of tribological processes and, in particular, the development of friction and wear occurring in the tribological system and derives possibilities for the simulation of tribological processes.

The two-storey test stand building completed in January 2016 primarily accommodates four functions on 1,650 m²: the test stand and radionuclide area as well as associated workshops and storerooms as the centrepiece on the ground floor. The scientists’ offices with meeting rooms and a break area as well as the technical rooms required for operation are located on the upper level. The almost square building (30 x 27 m), which can be extended towards the depth of the site by the same volume, was designed as a detached unit and is as such finished with a uniform façade. The aim of the exterior design was to reflect the high-tech function of the RNT laboratory including the “friction” experiments on the outside through the façade design. “All in all, the theme of the façade is the representation of the friction of two bodies against one another“, Prof. Susanne Gross explains the design, “this, however, does not challenge the unity of the overall volume”. For this reason, two stylised cog wheels running on top of one another were taken as a reference for the design of a façade grid system, with the bronze-coloured curtain façade being composed of edged aluminium panels. The thus created diamond-shaped pattern forms recesses and continuously runs around the building corners.

The interior is strictly functional and clearly structured. The floor plans of the two levels are each laid out around a communicative centre. The laboratories on the ground floor are arranged around a circulation area in the middle of the building, while the break area in the centre of the offices serves as meeting point for the scientists on the upper level. Despite the clear and reduced design throughout the building, which was deliberately applied to avoid any competition with the research contents, the interiors are far more than sterile laboratories. At various places inside the building (staircase, meeting room, break area), skylights create special light situations with a sacred character. On the upper level, wooden ceiling elements generate a warm, homely ambience.