Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Rickmers Headquarters

Hamburg, Germany

1998 - 2001

Recalling Hamburg’s Hanseatic mercantile history, this project creates a sleek, new headquarters for an international shipping company. Within a largely residential neighborhood of low-rise housing and classical urban villas, the site enjoys a shoreline exposure to the Aussenalster, a large lake linked to the port via a network of canals. Responding to the site conditions, the intimate program, and a relatively small 6,500 square-foot floor area, the building reconciles the scale of the residential context with the infrastructural requirements of a commercial enterprise.

The overall composition is subtly inflected by a curved roof plane and a bowed curtain wall to the north in order to unify blocks of discrete workspaces on each floor. These work areas offer varying degrees of privacy in response to slightly different programmatic needs. Given the high proportion of informal meeting areas, such as lounges, tea kitchens and external wooden decks overlooking the lake, the overall atmosphere is more domestic in character than the spatial rigor of conventional office space.

A double-height entry reception area occupies the ground floor, along with private offices and generous support space. A platform gallery suspended in the entry hall provides an ideal display area for the Rickmers Reederei collection of ship models, which is partially revealed to passing automobile traffic through double-height, clear glazing that turns the corner on the north elevation.

The third floor provides another reception area, together with a flexible conference room. Executive offices occupy the penthouse at the top of the building. Two levels below grade contain parking and an archival space.

The north elevation is treated as a translucent curtain wall that extends up as a plane to shield the penthouse offices. A chamfered picture window let into the enameled steel panels on the east façade facing the lake announces the presence of the main conference room at that level while the horizontal steel balustrading outside the adjacent waiting area confirms the domestic scale of the whole. This intimate gesture is reiterated on the floor above along with the over sailing louvered pagoda. Only the west façade, at the rear, truly reflects the building’s bureaucratic function, through its curtain wall fenestration, repeated identically on three consecutive floors.

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