Modern working world with atriums and lots of veneer

Successful construction of the new dm headquarters in Karlsruhe

Photographer: Roland Halbe | Architekten: Lederer Ragnasdóttir Oei, Stuttgart
(PresseBox) ( Karlsruhe, )
The most successful German drugstore chain is indisputably dm with around 3,500 stores throughout Europe. Since its foundation almost 50 years ago, the company's headquarters have been located in Karlsruhe in southern Germany – and will remain so in the future: From 2016 to 2019, the new dm headquarters was built at the Karlsruhe-Durlach freeway junction on a rather neglected site between the freeway and the feeder road. The administration building, however, convinces in all facets, with its extraordinary architecture, modern working environment and the clear implementation of the group's philosophy.

As in the dm-markets themselves, the aim was to create a bright and friendly atmosphere in which people feel comfortable. It should be a beautiful building, with a relationship to nature and a warm aura, in which good and innovative ideas can be developed. This has been achieved, can be experienced from the employees, who, according to their own statements, feel very comfortable in the new building. Today, more than 2,000 employees work in the intelligently planned building with its eight inner courtyards and an astonishing honeycomb shape on an area of around 41,000 square meters. Winfried Kretschmann personally attended the official opening of the 120 million euro new building.

The Karlsruhe veneer specialist Schorn & Groh is located right around the corner, barely a kilometer from the new dm building. So it was quite obvious that Schorn & Groh would provide the veneer for the interior fittings. The architect and client wanted a harmonious look for all wooden surfaces in the building. The choice fell on American maple and the use of plain rift veneers as well as veneers with a half crown.

More than 13,500 square meters of high-quality real wood veneers were used in total, of which 11,500 square meters in the standard thickness of 0.6 mm and 2,000 square meters with a thickness of 1.0 mm. Both veneer thicknesses originate from the same growth areas and ensure the homogenous overall appearance of wall panelling, doors and built-in furniture. Schorn & Groh produced the veneers itself as spliced veneers in mismatched appearance in its branch in Eschelbronn. The selection of the veneer, the further processing and the installation took place in close cooperation with Lindner AG and Friedrich Hanselmann GmbH. Lindner produced the wall panelling and doors, Hanselmann the furniture for the lounges and the tea kitchen area.

The building was designed by the Stuttgart architect Arno Lederer of the Lederer architectural office, Ragnarsdóttir, Oei. The anthroposophically influenced client wanted a "different office building" that, among other things, would also reflect the rather flat hierarchy in the company spatially. So it was clear from the outset that no office tower was an option, but only a building as low as possible. On mostly four floors, people work at modern, digital workplaces. Everyone can access documents from anywhere. This also means that no employee has a regular workplace, but works wherever there is room. Even the managing director's office can be used as a conference room when he is not present.

The honeycomb-shaped structure and the natural light that falls through almost 13,000 square meters of glass surfaces offer a pleasant and bright working atmosphere. Very special are the eight greened inner courtyards and the intensively planted parking garage roof, which is even planted with fruit trees. Solnhofer stone slabs on the ground on the first floor, oak wood, subtle artificial light and herb gardens in the courtyards create a homely and informal atmosphere rarely found in office buildings. Lush staircases and a color guidance system provide orientation in this somewhat labyrinthine system.

Part of the homely character of the dm office working world is also the renunciation of complex building services, because according to the architect, technology is the problem of sustainability, since energy is bound in it which cannot be recovered or used. For this reason, the architect and the client decided to dispense with a central ventilation system.

By the way, the name of the building is "dm-Dialogicum". It stands for a successful dialogue between Durlach and Karlsruhe, between buildings and nature, between employees on all levels, between the working world and cosiness. The dm headquarters is not only outstanding in architectural terms – it is also a place where employees really feel at home and identify with their company.
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