Exterior sculpture for the Frankfurt office building “Die Welle”
Project name: Die Welle
Architecture/design: schneider + schumacher, Frankfurt
Special features: Seven sculptural elements, 100 tons of sheet aluminum, 19,000 production hours, each piece of aluminum separately cut by hand and custom bent.
To enhance the building complex of AXA Investment Managers Deutschland GmbH known as “Die Welle,” the architects at schneider + schumacher designed a sculpture of the same name. “Welle” is an ensemble consisting of seven individual sculptures. The tallest section, “Glorious Arch”, is 18 m high and represents a unique installation both in terms of art and in terms of urban design.
Metal—the material of choice
The architects created the plans using parametric planning on the basis of a 3-D design model. One key challenge lay in the choice of material. The “Wave” was too expensive to realize in concrete, while wood is too high maintenance to be feasible. What other options were there? In a competition to find the perfect material, Arnold’s idea of using 100 tons of sheet aluminum won the day.
Contrary to a widespread practice, the construction did not depend on a steel scaffold underneath the aluminum cladding. Rather, the load of every individual sculpture making up the “Wave” is carried by its own metal skin. Shear forces are dissipated by means of 50 mm aluminum rods randomly placed in the interior.
In a total of 19,000 man hours, the seven individual sculptures were made from a single production batch of aluminum. Each metal sheet—measuring 6 x 1.5 meters—was individually cut by hand and bent using a plate rolling machine especially acquired and adapted for the purpose. Jigs were used to check the fit of every individual component.
If it doesn’t exist, we’ll develop it
Arnold developed a special welding process for producing “Die Welle” that allowed for one-sided full-seam welding in aluminum with almost no warping and thus eliminated the need for subsequent straightening measures.
The logistics were a challenge too. The huge prefabricated—but very unwieldy—elements were brought to the construction site by special transports, some of which were up to 38 m long. Assembly was possible only by means of hydraulic scaffolds and mobile indoor cranes. The installation was a memorable event both for Arnold and for those watching.
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