Project DescriptionThe NIK Office building, designed by Atelier Thomas Pucher in collaboration with Bramberger [architects] was the first prize of an invited competition in Graz, Austria. It has a floor area of 1400m2 and is intended to be a landmark in a scattered area of the city.
This freestanding office building created for a top branding agency stands at the center of a small, green square on the banks of the river Mur. Its form is sculptural in its simplicity: a stack of golden cubes. At the same time, the NIK is the culmination of a complex and meticulous design process responding to the site’s serious technical obstacles and intricate planning and financial considerations.
The chief problem to overcome was how to increase the number of floors by 2.5 (a double-storey storage shed previously stood on the site), while keeping the new construction light enough to rest on the 1980s underground parking garage beneath. This was achieved by designing a consistently lightweight construction and also by using a complex distributor grid underneath, which invisibly spreads the concentrated loads of the steel frame girders over the garage’s supports.
Before the arrival of the car park and its 1980s redesign, the square next to the Mur river course was home to a boathouse dating back four centuries. While Nikolaiplatz’s architectural styles and usage changed over time, the plot’s dimensions remained constant. The new building is sized to fill this site to the last few centimetres, and also reacts precisely to its heterogeneous urban situation. On one side—towards Entenplatz—the NIK becomes a boundary of space that fits in with surrounding buildings, while on the other—facing Nikolaiplatz and the riverbank—it forms an independent sculptural entity.
In this way, the steel-framed structure with clear vertical alignments and plenty of glass mediates between a high-density urban environment and an open green space. Calm and reduced, yet coated with a playful sheen of gold, the chunky facade blocks are also put to good use on the inside as shelves and archives. The result is a construction that is solid, practical and inviting but at the same time manages to be aesthetically and literally light.
The design of the facade follows the requirements of the lightweight structure, alternating aluminum panels and glass forming a playful composition. The panels are made of aluminium Composite Material (ACM), and have a gold glimmering appearance, that reinforces the relation of the building with its surroundings. From the inside, these spaces are used for accommodating shelves or archives, enhancing the possibilities of the working space in an open space environment. The glass elements are used for natural lighting but also to create an effect of reflection or transparency: during the day the building reflects the surroundings and in the evening shows its interior spaces to the passers-by, fading the borders between interior and exterior spaces.