KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin: View of the seemingly floating stairway made of glass and exposed concrete.

Futuristic building extension with support from fischer

24. June 2019

“Normally projects such as these proceed very differently”, Jochen Burbach chuckles. “We are usually involved much earlier on – we know what to expect and can plan accordingly”, says the 41-year-old Manager for the fixing specialist fischer. But this time things were different. The former KINDL beer brewery was set to be turned into a modern art gallery. The opening date in October 2016 had been set and the first exhibitions were already scheduled. The supplier who was initially supposed to provide the glass plates for the new stairway made of glass and exposed concrete then pulled out on the facade construction contractor just three months beforehand.

“I can still remember when the phone rang a week before my summer holiday“, Jochen Burbach recalls. The person at the other end of the line was Matthias Anderle from the facade specialist GIP Glazing. His question was short and to the point: Are you able to organise 250 square metres of custom cut glass including the necessary boreholes for the fischer undercut glass point fixing within three weeks? “Yes, we can“, Burbach responded, who made his way to BGT (Bischoff Glastechnik) in Brettern, Germany the day before his holiday in order to discuss the initial project details with GIP Glazing and BGT. “BGT was fully booked until the end of the year – but they were still prepared to fit the project in”, Burbach says.

Jochen Burbach for the fixing specialist fischer
Jochen Burbach for the fixing specialist fischer

The trained mechanical engineer drew up a tight timetable together with Matthias Anderle: While BGT Bischoff Glastechnik produced the 62 free-form elements out of laminated safety glass, the employees at fischer ACT (Advanced Curtain Wall Technique) dealt with the production of the glass point fixings while preparing the boreholes for the undercut technology. Machines developed in-house allow fischer to quickly and economically create the boreholes with diamond-tipped drilling tools. “It is crucial that the hole is not drilled through the glass and that it is larger inside the material than on the surface”, Jochen Burbach explains (see below image). The point fixings are later inserted into the panels in this hollow space using setting appliances.

The fischer undercut point fixing for glass.
The fischer Zykon point fixing for glass: The anchors cannot be seen from the exterior due to the undercut technology with the corresponding borehole in the glass.

First a brewery, then an art gallery

The idea to turn the listed building of the former KINDL brewery in Berlin-Neukölln into an art gallery came from Salome Grisard Varnholt and her husband Burkhard Varnholt. The art collector couple bought the distinctive brick building in 2011 and created the renovation concept with the Swiss architecture firm grisard’architektur ETH SIA, which the building owner leads. “Our aim was to make the expressionist cathedral-like brick building shine through appealing illumination”, the owner of the building Salome Grisard Varnholt says. ”We wanted to create a unique new art location through contrasting new parts made of exposed concrete – such as the stairway or the square outside the front.” The six enormous copper kettles, once the largest of their kind in Europe, where also integrated in the modern ambience.

Interior view of the impressive glass facade inside the KINDL museum.
Exposed concrete and lots of glass: The impressive exhibition rooms of the KINDL Centre for Contemporary Art with its minimalist and modern architecture.

High architectural demands

The stairway made of glass and exposed concrete on the east side is undoubtedly the building’s most eye-catching feature, completing the red brick building with a futuristic component. “There were multiple special characteristics involved, which the client Grisard Varnholt really wanted to see implemented”, the Project Manager Burbach remembers. The architect wanted the glass front of the stairway to appear as if it were made from a single sheet of glass while offering maximum transparency, for instance. “Instead of using metal posts as reinforcements, as is usual with window frames, so-called glass blades were used as supporting structures. These are transparent reinforcing elements as vertical glass posts with extremely slender cross-sections and high rigidity. They are unsupported and were installed from floor to ceiling”, Jochen Burbach says.

The handrail was also not simply attached to the concrete pedestal; instead, it simultaneously forms a part of the component with which the glass elements were attached from below. “In order to achieve an optimum result, every point of the entire facade had to be individually measured via 3D laser technology”, Project Manager Andreas Anderle from GIP Glazing remembers. “The handrail was then preassembled in a workshop before being powder-coated and slotted together on site”. The effort was worth it: “It all fit perfectly”, Anderle says happily, looking back.

A view of one of the glass blades.
Glass blades instead of metal posts: This device gives the facade the appearance of being a single transparent surface from the exterior.

Exemplary cooperation leads to success

What were some of the crucial criteria that allowed the project to become a success? Jochen Burbach doesn’t take long to answer: “With the KINDL Museum we had two companies – GIP and fischer, who are competitors – pool their skills and deliver the best service together with the partner BGT according to the client’s wishes. Strategic partnerships such as this between a substructure manufacturer, a glass manufacturer and a facade material manufacturer are an example of the kind of route we want to take at fischer”. And it shows, according to Jochen Burbach: “Cooperation gets us further than competition”.

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The fischer ACT System opens up the way for effortless and cost-efficient design of attractive, complex façades. The reason lies in the system itself – FZP II, the fischer zykon panel anchor, which is undercut and therefore stress-free fixing system that is installed into pre-drilled undercut hole.

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