The city of Esslingen, part of the Stuttgart region in southern Germany, has shared designs for its latest urban revitalization project, and it promises to be an impressive sight when the construction finishes: a 12-story mixed-use building located in the heart of the city. Netherlands-based architecture and design firm MVRDV created the concept.
Named “The Milestone”, it aims to showcase the identity of the city in new ways: Esslingen, which also goes by the more formal version of Esslingen am Neckar which denotes its location along the Neckar River, has a strong and well-documented historical presence in the region, but beyond this it has struggled to convey a more modern and industrialized image. This project is sure to attract attention, as the building will be featured prominently for all commuters passing through and around Esslingen’s “Neue Weststadt” Train Station.
Though construction on the building will not commence until 2020, 6,5000m2 have been allotted for the space, which will incorporate some eye-catching design elements: an open geometric core and a partially reflective façade. It seems a practical solution for a city which is proud of its past but has an equally strong desire to embrace its future. MVRDV is partnering with nearby Saarbrücken-based RVI on the project. The building will be part of a new central district.
Starting with the plan for the façade of the building—known as “Block E” during its former use—there will be a mix of partially reflective photovoltaic (PV) cells that serve as a kind of topographic map of Esslingen and the surrounding area. The series of pixels that combine to make this stunning visual effect will be named the “Esslingen Room”: each individual pixel carries an interesting message containing information about the history, people and local flavor of the city.
MVRDV co-founder Winy Mass sums up the larger impact of the project on the city: “The façade with fritted glass will have QR codes integrated on to it informing visitors about Esslingen’s people, landscape, and histories which makes the building an interactive library for all.”
Moving down to the ground level, there will be exposed space weaving through a series of exposed space filled terraces, stairs and platforms, and at the ground floor will be a large public space equipped with all the amenities like a café, restaurant and various meeting areas will be housed within the crystal rock portion of the building. The space will also offer views of the local and surrounding landscape. Perhaps taking a cue from companies like Amazon, the upper space will be used for office space, “created to encourage a healthy work-life balance”.
Because there is an economic and infrastructural impact of big city activity on surrounding areas, more focus needs to be paid to revitalization projects related to smaller cities. It is small wonder that the guiding principle for the MVRDV project is that “Europe consists of thousands of small towns that compete for recognition”. In this frenzied race towards urbanization the entire globe is experiencing, it is nice to see more towns taking a proactive approach that benefits them as well.