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Highlight Munich Business Towers
Munich, Germany

Murphy/Jahn redefines spec in a pair of technically sophisticated energy-efficient towers united by clip-on bridges

© Rainer Viertlböck

For more photos click on 'photos & drawings' above.

To see the people and products behind this project click on 'people & products.'

By Tracy Metz

A spec office building cannot usually be thought a lab bench for innovation, but Murphy/Jahn, working with the engineer Werner Sobek, has not only refined the engineering and detailing derring-do it has employed on previous office projects, but the team has created a sparkling urban landmark.

A wedge-shaped swath outside the city center, but prominently located next to a ring road and near a freeway, became available when Munich officials held a redevelopment competition in 1999. Officials intended the office-building development to signal a new life for a district full of warehouses that have gradually emptied. Eventually, a row of office buildings should fill in behind the Highlight Munich Business Towers, separated by a landscaped zone from future housing development.

Planners sought two discrete slabs on this conspicuous location in order to avoid an overbearing mass. The developer, Bürozentrum Parkstadt München-Schwabing, did too, but for a different reason: It wanted construction to be phased so that the offices could be brought onto the market gradually. In spite of a local glut of space, 50 percent of the Highlight Towers are now rented.

The pair of thin, offset parallelogram towers (one 33 floors, the other 27) seem to present the unwrinkled, expressionless face reminiscent of Modernist buildings the world over. But the effect is sculpturally dynamic as the sharply angled roofs and the thin slabs of the towers appear to slip by each other as the viewer moves around them on the ring road or the autobahn. The effect is especially dramatic at night, with the shifting towers outlined by strings of blue lights and lit from within the external stair and elevator shafts by narrow red and green stripes.

Design partner Helmut Jahn placed the towers in the middle of the site to avoid the noise and pollution produced by the ring road. A six-story office block on the south side doubles as a sound barrier, with the freight elevator and the stairwells shielding workers from traffic noise. A seven-story, four-star designer hotel, the Innside, wraps the towers on the north.

Up close, the towers are undeniably light on their feet. Murphy/Jahn claims that the steel structure has one of the highest slimness ratios in the world, 1 to 10. The buildings’ small footprint liberated two thirds of the site for a landscape by Peter Walker, which opens the site visually to nearby park space. Above a 750-car, three-level garage, Walker united the site by drawing large concentric circles of black and white stone that run from the courtyards into the lobby.

In the hotel, Jahn turned to his interior design firm, Jahn Lykouria of London. They designed chairs, tables, even the three-watt LED reading lamps mounted flush in the headboards. Sleeping areas flow into glass-enclosed baths fitted with dish-shaped, stainless-steel sinks in glass countertops. Since Jahn did not want to interrupt the door-size windows with railings, local authorities will only permit them to open a few inches, for safety. The restaurant shows the same maximum attention to Minimalist detail, with an underlit glass bar over a bamboo floor, projection screens, and huge plate-glass panels held in thin mullions.

Want the full story? Read the entire article in our March 2006 issue.
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Formal name of Project:
Highlight Munich Business Towers

Munich, Germany

Gross square footage:
798,660 sq. ft.

Total construction cost:
$207 million

Bürozentrum Parkstadt München-Schwabing KG

35 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601
PH: 312 427-7300
FX: 312 332-0274


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