ThyssenKrupp – “Room of Silence”

The power of silence.

Witten, March 2011. It is an extremely unusual environment, the recently unveiled “Room of Silence” in the new ThyssenKrupp Quarter in Essen. The uniqueness of this architecturally ambitious space is not immediately apparent to visitors as they progress through its adjoining rooms. But, as they advance from the elongated, high-ceilinged anteroom into the main room, there it is: a huge cube that appears to be suspended in mid air. The inside walls of this cube are lined with hundreds of titanium shingles bathed in blue, softly shimmering light. The atmosphere is remarkable, almost mystical, with the exciting contrast between the material inside the cube and that of the smoothly plastered walls.

Architectural medium.

The new ThyssenKrupp headquarters is the workplace for over 2,000 staff and is the new heart of the company. The contemporary, transparent architecture encourages dialogue and sharing. In the non-sectarian Room of Silence, the company has provided employees and guests with a space for contemplation such as we seldom encounter in the modern-day working world – a neutral haven for meditation, quiet and inner reflection in the midst of the often hectic workday.

For the design, the architects at JSWD in Cologne with Chaix & Morel in Paris consciously rejected conspicuous geometry. In doing so, they allowed the outwardly unremarkable room to blend harmoniously into the adjacent sequence of conference rooms in the Q2 forum. You don’t see what makes the Room of Silence so spectacular until you look inside. Here, in the 135-square-metre main room with its seven-metre-high ceiling, a bottomless cube appears to hover unsupported in space. It does not touch the floor, and the skylights above it complete the illusion of physical liberation. This floating cube focuses the entire space, and invites the visitor to consider the border between the high-ceilinged room and the cube, to cross it and to explore the space within. Inside, the changing illumination in the ceiling bathes the hundreds of finger-shaped titanium shingles layering the walls in dramatic blue light, giving them an ethereal feel that underscores the suspension of the cube.

Unique spatial experience.

In addition to the design idiom of the Room of Silence, the architects knew the key to this space was choosing the right materials for the finish. The walls, the ceiling, the outside of the cube and the floor are all done in the same material: PANDOMO® by ARDEX, a monolithic system for seamless, custom-designed surfaces. For this room, the material was tinted light cream, resulting in a harmonious, flowing space with a clear, reduced design – an absolutely stunning effect. Its seamless planes project generosity and intensify the striking spatial experience. The floor is imposing, resembling a natural stone slab with no joints. All the surfaces are smoothed to uniform sleekness; their silky, sophisticated sheen lends the room elegance and stands in strong, conscious contrast to the animation of the blue titanium shingles within the cube.

Not only the architecture but also the visitors themselves shape the impression this room makes. They are encouraged to use the room in any way the spirit moves them. There is no fixed furniture. The entire floor and the stools placed at random can be used for sitting. The feel of the room changes depending on the situation and the visitors present. And the architects’ concept works, as employees’ resoundingly positive feedback on the Room of Silence attests.

Material information on PANDOMO® by ARDEX.

PANDOMO® by ARDEX is a modern surfacing system that provides total architectural design freedom. No matter what the creative concept, this wide range of cement-based products can turn it into reality, with fast, affordable and long-lasting results. In the Room of Silence, PANDOMO® Wall was selected for all the wall and ceiling surfaces and the outside of the cube. High-strength PANDOMO® W1, a cementitious decorative finishing render, is easy and efficient to work with, and also permanently fills in any cracks or unevenness in the substrate. The material was first custom coloured and then applied in trowel strokes that produced a unique signature. The surfaces were smoothed several times to achieve perfect sleekness, and finally polished and sealed with stone oil, lending them their elegant look with a fine, sophisticated sheen and special surface texture.

PANDOMO® Floor was chosen to produce the seamless floor. The cement base and contemporary industrial look make a sleek and sophisticated impression. The choice of customised colours brings the floor to life and gives the rooms their own individual character. PANDOMO® Loft was selected for the anteroom, as the built-in ramp there is subject to special wear and tear. PANDOMO® Loft features enhanced durability and is ideal for heavily frequented areas. This cementitious compound can be applied in layers as thin as just 2 millimetres, which eliminates any need to cut doors and built-in elements. Common to all these floors is their final treatment with oil and wax-based stone oil. This lends them the same silky shimmer as the rest of the surfaces, perpetuating the harmonious aesthetic.