The Next Generation
Faraway galaxy? No, rural Germany—where a Glaskoch showroom by 3deluxe has touched down
Andreas Tzortzis -- Interior Design, 11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
As the fifth-generation managing director of Germany's 148-year-old Glaskoch glass-products company, Oliver Kleine faced a dilemma. "It basically came down to two options. Did we upgrade our identity? Or did we keep producing for the mainstream and just keep lowering our prices?" Kleine recalls. A 35-year-old who shops at Colette in Paris and wears his navy blue blazers with Converse sneakers, Kleine picked the former—in a big way. His decision took the form of an $11.5 million building by 3deluxe: part showroom for Glaskoch's Leonardo brand of glassware, part workshop, part seminar space, part manifestation of Glaskoch's new corporate identity. Set among the rolling pastures of Germany's Westphalia region, near the town of Bad Driburg, the Leonardo Glass Cube, as it's called, is the kind of striking statement Kleine hopes will transform the image of a company formerly known for elegant vases and bowls bestowed on birthdays and anniversaries.
For a firm accustomed to designing interiors, the prospect of building a stand-alone structure, engaged with its surroundings, presented a challenge—one that 3deluxe met by melding its own organic style with Glaskoch's ties to the geometric tradition of the Bauhaus. "It's a nice combination of nature and innovation," Kleine says. Slender steel cables frame the building's four sides of 19½-foot-high glass without impeding the view of the countryside, complete with black-and-white cows out to pasture. But picturesque wasn't enough for 3deluxe's principals, Dieter Brell and twins Andreas and Stephan Lauhoff. Adhered to the glass, transparent film features photography of the surrounding landscape overlapping with renderings of the cube's interior. Light plays with the film, creating intricate ghostly shadows on the white carpet inside. As Brell sees it, "The facade stimulates the imagination and constantly encourages people to perceive their environment anew."
The white drywall forms that carve up the cube's interior give a nod to what 3deluxe does best: focus attention. Swooping through the ground level, the drywall creates niches such as the reception area and a meeting lounge. (Both are outfitted with free-form built-in seating, covered in white leather, and equally white coffee tables, topped in Corian.) Two sweeping walkways connect the ground level to the actual showrooms below as well as allowing visitors above to see what all the fuss is about. The main showroom is surrounded by three smaller alcoves, essentially blank slates that offer Kleine flexible display options for different glass products—jewelry, stemware, vases—in their own atmosphere. "Our brief for the Leonardo Glass Cube was to create a 'brand world,'" Brell says. With 21,000 of this world's 31,000 square feet below-grade, halogen sources recessed in the ceiling supplement the sunlight bouncing down from the drywall's curvature.
Between the central drywall structures and the glass perimeter, open space is inhabited by three white acrylic sculptures that stretch from floor to ceiling. The firm started experimenting with similar biomorphic forms for its interactive media pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hannover. At Glaskoch, they're more treelike in silhouette. They're also very much in touch with the zeitgeist, judging from the Zaha Hadid installation for the high-profile furniture fair that's morphed into Design Miami.
Despite a retro accent or two, for instance the cold-cathode tubes behind the reception desk, new ideas prevail. And that's in keeping with a corporate culture that puts the emphasis on innovation: Take Glaskoch's method of using magnets to create patterns on glassware—a closely guarded secret. "It's nice to have a client that's looking for new ways of doing things," Brell says. "Because we're always looking for new ways to design."