German Firm Unveils New Take on Water Tank


A German architecture firm known for its unorthodox designs is taking on water—in the form of a multipurpose tower in the city of Heidelberg that will both store water for heating and serve as a "knowledge hub" and visual focal point for the town.

The striking tower, based on an existing 1950s-era German gas tank, is being designed by the Australian-German firm Laboratory for Visionary Architecture. With this project, LAVA’s designs accommodate for the tower to hold water, which is heated by solar and wind energy. The resulting heated water contributes to the regional heating network.

“LAVA’s design will transform the new water tank, a cylindrical-shaped storage centre, into a dynamic sculpture, a city icon, a knowledge hub on sustainable energy, fully accessible to the public, a strong symbol of the transition towards renewables,” Tobias Wallisser, director of LAVA, said.

Wallisser noted that the existing gas tank was a “symbol of energy policy in the 1950s.”

“Our task was to transform a big heavy industrial tank into a dynamic object,” he added.

The Water Tank

In building the water tank, the repurposed tower’s form and geometry is not changed significantly, said Wallisser. This presented a challenge for LAVA.

“How can the parameters of energy regeneration, decentrality, networking, flexibility and adaptivity be made visible in the design of the outer shell?” the LAVA director said. “How can an adaptive, dynamic system be produced without extreme technical control?”

The exterior of the tower will feature 11,000 diamond-shaped stainless-steel plates, which are attached to a steel cable network, creating a veil that can rotate up to 45 degrees in the wind. To bring the tower to life, LAVA collaborated with German installation group WHITEvoid on the multi-plated exterior.

“[The] number of plates matches the number of households supplied with energy by the network … a visual signifier of the impact new technology can make,” Walliser told Architecture AU.

Beneath it, there is an insulating inner shell of mineral wool in various shades of blue. A staircase winds around the tower proper, underneath the shifting exterior facade. This inner envelope is illuminated at night with low-energy LED lights in blue, green and white, and are mounted under the stairs. According to The Urban Developer, this signals the filling or emptying of the storage tank, making the tower’s processes visible.

The tank’s roof will also see the addition of two event spaces, made accessible by new elevators.

The tower stands at over 180 feet tall, with 19,500-cubic-meter capacity, and will be accompanied by a 10,000-square-meter park.

LAVA and Collaboration

In 2007, LAVA was established by Chris Bosse, who serves as the director for the Asia Pacific arm of the firm, based in Sydney. Walliser (based in Stuttgart, Germany), as well as Alexander Rieck (based in Berlin), also helped establish the firm, and are now the co-directors of the European division.

The architects did note that the design for Heidelberg’s new tower did draw some inspiration from one of their previous projects, which involved a proposal to cover the UTS Tower in Sydney with a mesh textile embedded with LEDs. That proposal went unbuilt, but was included in the 2014 Australian exhibition for the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The tower and park are both slated for completion mid-2019. LAVA's design for the German water tower was shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival awards in the Future Infrastructure Projects category.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Energy efficiency; EU; Europe; Green design; Infrastructure; non-potable water; Program/Project Management; Water Tanks

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