Purist Steel ConstructionHeadquarters Brunner AG, Switzerland
Completed in 2013, the corporate headquarters of Brunner AG constitutes an adequate representation of customer orientation and perfection. The building – spectacular yet unostentatious – serves as showroom, office, warehouse and workshop all in one. The architecture uses its perfect form to emphasize the building’s functionality, and the design attracts the attention of visitors and passers-by alike.
With its exposed location right next to the A1 motorway between Bern and Solothurn, the corporate headquarters of Brunner AG in Schönbühl (Switzerland) reflects the corporate values of customer orientation and dedication for perfection. The seemingly plain functional building in its commercial neighbourhood is characterised by a certain restraint; still, details like the overly large showcase windows and the concave cubature give a first indication that this piece of architecture is really a representative building. When getting closer to the purist steel construction, and particularly upon going inside, one feels how the unveiled construction has been used consciously and very precisely as a determinative design element.
The height and width of the building conform to the maximum permitted dimensions, thus marking the biggest possible presence at this location. The side facing away from the motorway welcomes visitors with a characteristic fold highlighting the entrance. The interior presents a surprising spatial principle: a cascade of levels reaching up across the entire floor height. A staircase leads up to a piano nobile; from there, the exhibition opens up as a sequence of interior terraces and connecting stairs. With each level, there’s less distance to the ceiling of the visible steel frame structure. All surfaces are left untreated or are painted white. This robust backdrop of neutral colours sets the stage for a café, a seminar space and the exciting product arrangement on the respective levels. Chairs are displayed in a room-high shelving system, on the walls, and together with tables on carpeted isles and pedestals.
The two longitudinal sides of the building are folded. Towards the motorway, the facade thus turns towards passers-by driving in either direction. Showcase windows set into the facade at different heights correspond to the interior cascade, allowing insights into the different product areas.
Together with the showcase windows of the front and back sides, they follow the grid pattern of the steel frame construction. Smaller frame windows are positioned behind the outer, fabric-like shell. Looking in and out is always possible because the facade’s dark profile sheet metal is perforated. The supporting framework is filled in with light-coloured facing concrete panels, making the building gleam in different hues, depending on the light and the angle of vision.
The architectural firm EM2N of Mathias Müller (*1966) and Daniel Niggli (*1970), headquartered in Zurich, employs some 70 people and is engaged in building and competition projects both in Switzerland and internationally. EM2N has adapted Venturi’s “both and” principle, which defines their basic architectural strategy. Accordingly, architecture is to be both strong and independent, both characteristic and polarising. You can love it or hate it, since “both and” is not to be confused with arbitrariness or indecisiveness. Rather, it shows the longing for an architecture that renounces dogmatism and opens up the freedom of what is possible.