Technology takes centre stage

Celebrated for his modernist, curved creations, Oscar Niemeyer’s vision for a white concrete and glazed sphere has been realised posthumously with Eyrise dynamic window technology, offering sun protection while respecting the purity of his design.

The iconic Brazilian architect was approached by Ludwig Koehne, owner of the Kirow plant in Leipzig, Germany, in 2011 to build an extension of a factory canteen. Following Niemeyer’s death in 2012, his sketches were further developed by assistant Jair Valera. The project was executed by Harald Kern Architects.

The sphere comprises an upper and lower hemisphere that houses a restaurant and bar. Fifty wooden moulds were hand crafted to construct the framework for the two concrete shells. Eyrise dynamic liquid crystal windows were installed to reduce solar glare and enhance wellbeing for occupants.

“Niemeyer liked the idea of creating a building that would benefit working people and the element of surprise that comes with seeing such a futuristic structure in the heart of an industrial space,” said plant owner Ludwig Koehne. “He was always open to new developments and would have approved of the use of innovative technology to realise his vision.”

Located at the Techne Sphere industrial complex in the district of Plagwitz, the sphere measures 12m in diameter. It is position on the top corner of a 19th century factory used by Kirow, a tram company and crane manufacturer, with views overlooking the city.

The lattice pattern glass facade comprises 144 individually manufactured triangular glass modules of various sizes that darken and lighten instantaneously, thanks to liquid crystal glass technology controlled by an app.

The glass remains a transparent neutral grey colour across the tinting spectrum when viewed from inside, so natural light is preserved and the view to the outside is always retained.

“A fusion of art with technology, the sphere sets new standards in architecture for our increasingly digital world,” said Kai Beckmann, member of the board at Merck, and CEO of Merck Performance Materials.

“This space is all about wellbeing, sustainability and controlling the building’s energy footprint. Our Eyrise liquid crystal glass technology makes this possible by providing invisible shading and preventing over-heating while remaining true to Niemeyer’s spirit.”