The award-winning Tour Total sets new standards in architecture – not only in the new Europacity in Berlin
Subtle bends and ingenious details: Architects Barkow Leibinger developed a facade made of prefabricated concrete that gives Total company headquarters in Berlin a distinctive look. Staff were also included in the design process for the interior rooms.
Located to the north of the main train station in Berlin, "Eu-ropacity" only consisted of fallow land when the 68-metre-high office block was opened in Autumn 2012. The tower now shapes the new city quarter that will arise on approximately 40 hectares along Heidestraße - with 17 striking storeys, it sets high standards for urban development and architecture. The architects from the Berlin office of Barkow Leibinger and owner CA Immo have received numerous awards for this development. Serving as the German headquarters for the French oil company TOTAL, the building has won the 2013 DAM prize for architecture and the 2014 Architekturpreis Beton (architecture prize from the German con-crete industry), among other awards. The Tour Total has also received a silver DGNB certificate for its elaborate climate concept with efficient energy recovery, triple glazing, and exterior sun protection.
As the jury for the concrete industry prize sees it, the effect and special qualities of the tower can be found in its architectural detail: 1,300 bright prefabricated concrete components create a complex facade that makes the building look dynamic even from a distance. As you approach the building, the vivid shell appears to flow upwards thanks to a diverse interplay between light and shadow.
However, Barkow Leibinger refrained from using a variety of materials, module sizes, or grids to create this impression. According to the architects, this diversity was simply the result of slight variances in asymmetrical basic modules that were flipped or rotated. For instance, two T-form elements create a K-module, which extends over four storeys with a diagonal ridge. Altogether, the modules are reminiscent of filigree Japanese cut paper art. They were prefabricated with well-crafted precision and combined to form a curtain that covers the entire facade, with the exception of the two-storey base.
This design does not use a skeleton construction and loads are distributed over the supporting facade and core. This not only saves money, it also allows for a more flexible use of the spacious interior. To the greatest possible extent rooms do not have any pillars, because the bearings are appropriately distributed in the relatively narrow building.
The master plan specified the orientation of the building, but the architects had more freedom in determining the cubage. The building structure blends in with the surrounding urban area. The course of the streets is mirrored by turns in the base of the building. A bend visually shortens the long sides of the building and strengthens the vertical impression of the approximately 18,000 square metres of gross floor area located above ground. This allows for an exciting spatial gometry in the interior.
Colonnades frame the entrance with a bright lobby that was also designed by Barkow Leibinger. A relief made of white ceramic tiles brings the facade design inside. The ground floor also includes a bistro next to the reception area and post room. The bistro was designed by the Berlin architects LWA Leyk Wollenberg. Just as when the office areas were set up, input from Total employees was also actively sought for the design of the 320-square-metre cafeteria. As a result, the design is in line with management's request to create a bistro area that facilitates communication and does not divide people, but also gives employees a certain amount of privacy and a feeling of security. Instead of using partition walls, LWA created room zones using a total of 750 matt gold aluminium struts that extend over the entire height of the room.
Total also integrated its employees throughout the process to increase acceptance for a radical change in its office culture. Around 500 employees moved out of single or double offices into an open space, and 40 to 50 employees now work in an open plan office on each floor. Spaces consisting of four-person islands and the equipment of the workstations were discussed and, in some cases, mutually developed in employee work groups led by real estate consultants Jones Lang LaSalle. For example, employees had a say in the furniture selection.
Spatial standards, such as room-high windows that can be opened separately or the selection of doors, in particular those needed to ensure fire protection, were, of course, left up to the experts. Products from the door manufacturer Hörmann were used for fire protection: Regardless of their equipment, the 177 single and double-leaf T30 and T90 sheet steel doors H3 and H16 all match each other, resulting in a harmonious overall design.
Barkow Leibinger also included fully-bonded, double-leaf T30 STS doors in the project. A flush-closing door leaf creates a smooth surface with the frame when closed. On the upper floors, 115 single-leaf and double-leaf, fully-glazed steel tubular frame elements were fitted that are fire-retarding, smoke-tight, and acoustic-rated. Here, the architects mainly selected S-Line products, which are particularly easy to integrate in the modern and transparent building design thanks to especially narrow tubular frames. The entrance to the cafeteria also needed to be transparent yet fire-retarding. Planners therefore chose an automatic sliding door in combination with a T30 fire sliding door from Hörmann. In case of a fire, the fire sliding door closes automatically. Otherwise it disappears into a recess next to the sliding door when open.
Besides the conference area on the ground floor, twelve floors are currently in use as office space, all of which follow the same design principle. The 14th storey will include an exhibition open to school classes from 2015 onwards and the 16th storey will be rented out for external events. As a result, those who are not TOTAL employees will also get to take in the beautiful view of the expanding Europacity at the top of the tower. Right next door, Barkow Leibinger is currently working on the 6-storey building complex Monnet 4. The architecture of the new building is similar to the tower's and should be finished by the summer of 2015.