The Landesarchiv NRW in Duisburg – Europe’s Largest Archive Building
"Cultural buildings such as the Landesarchiv NRW (State Archives of North Rhine-Westphalia) are ultimately a stabilising investment in the next 300 years. In such a context any kind of short-term or speculative approach to architecture is ridiculous. In the archives our past will be written in the future.”
Christian Heuchel, O&O Baukunst
Urban Planning and Architecture The brick-clad reinforced concrete granary of the RWSG warehouses was built in 1936. On a total of eight storeys grain was stored in the form of bulk goods. The precisely constructed concrete frame makes the granary a fine of example of reinforced concrete building.
The Landesarchiv NRW presents a striking, brick-red figure to the A40 motorway and to the inner harbour of Duisburg. The existing granary building was augmented by the construction of an archive tower at its centre. The archive material of the state can now be housed in a strikingly visible way. The openings and roof surfaces of the existing granary were closed. The new storage tower distinguishes itself from the old brick structure by the use of fine ornament. The building provides space for archive material on shelving with a total length of 148 kilometres.
The foyer is at the interface between the old granary building and “The Wave”. This creates an appropriate entrance situation for the new Landesarchiv. The foyer and public areas open to the waterfront promenade. In the interior of the foyer you can look through huge “porthole” windows at the collected archive material.
From here the new building grows eastward into the site. The five-storey addition, which extends in a wave-like form along the inner harbour, contains the foyer, administration and additional functions. The Ziegelplatz at the Schwanentor is emphasised towards the street space.
The fundamental design element is a solid external skin of bricks that gives the archive tower a sculptural appearance. Technical façade elements such as gutters, facade safety rails etc. are made in such a way that visually they retreat to the background. The historic structure and function of the listed building remains legible. A finely articulated ornament is made by means of projections and recesses in the brickwork. The existing walls consist of full bricks in the traditional dimensions 25/12/6.5 cm. The newly erected external walls are built using bricks with the same format. The existing windows in the granary building were walled up with brickwork. The colouring and texture of the new brickwork takes up the surface of the original bricks, which through their patina are a witness to Duisburg’s industrial history. The new and old building parts are subtly differentiated.
Structural Design Together with the engineers from Osd the architects from O&O Baukunst developed the idea of building a “storehouse in the storehouse” and integrating the new building as a tower within the existing granary building.
The construction was broken up into an outer reinforced concrete tower that transfers the horizontal loads and functions as the building envelope and an inner steel construction that transfers the loads of the archive material.
Aspects of Sustainability The archive building permanently preserves the documents of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, accordingly the building design aims at stabilising the climatic system and protecting resources. The long-term archiving to be provided here is reflected by the building’s robust design that conveys a sense of permanence.
An air-tight construction to reduce air exchange with the external climate is achieved by closing up the windows in the existing granary building. This eliminates the harmful effects of daylight and sunlight. An energy-efficient lighting system reduces internal heat loads. Entry to the archive rooms is regulated by means of air locks that reduce the air exchange with other parts of the building. Five high-security doors lead from the office areas to the 20-storey archive tower. The length of stay in the depots is also regulated. Archivists can stay there for a maximum of two hours and there are no permanent workplaces. Simulations of the climate in the archives have shown that the humidity-regulating effect of the stored paper is also an important factor. All archive rooms are at least half-filled with archive material in order to achieve the target values in terms of building physics. To preserve the external appearance of the granary, which is a listed building, the thermal insulation required is to be mounted internally. Here care must be taken to carry out the construction correctly from a building physics viewpoint.
In the Landesarchiv the principles of passive air-conditioning are followed, augmented by a sensitively adjustable partial air-conditioning system to reduce the low internal loads. As the archive material attracts moisture preserving a constant relative room humidity is of particular importance. In addition short-term fluctuations in air humidity and temperature must be avoided at all costs. Ideal storage conditions lie within a very restricted range: a temperature of 16°C with a fluctuation of only +/-2° C and an air humidity of 50 % with a maximum fluctuation of 5 %. The important construction measures are highly effective thermal insulation to protect against external climate fluctuations and a heavy construction to stabilize the temperature.