Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - 43

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FOCUS

The fabric-wrapped
ThyssenKrupp test tower
in Rottweil, Germany, is
used to test and certify
high-speed elevators,
reducing development time
of skyscrapers. The tower's
observation deck offers
visitors stunning views of
the Alps. All photos: Taiyo
Europe GmbH.

All wrapped up
A fabric-clad tower in southern Germany brings technicians,
elevator experts and the public together in one spectacular
vertical setting.
BY BRUCE N. WRIGHT, FAIA

P

aris's Eiffel Tower, London's Big Ben, China's Three Pagodas, Iraq's spiral minaret:
Over time, all became more than just their function-they became iconic symbols
of their location.
Likewise, ThyssenKrupp's fabric-wrapped Rottweil test tower must become a symbol of
its place and surroundings, says Helmut Jahn, FAIA, the internationally celebrated architect
who collaborated with the equally celebrated structural engineer Werner Sobek on the tower.
"It can do that if it does not just fulfill its function as a test facility for ThyssenKrupp, but
[also] for the residents and visitors of this place," he says.
ThyssenKrupp, located in Rottweil, Germany, is a leading world designer and manufacturer
of advanced elevators, especially for very tall buildings. The city of Rottweil, established more
than 2,000 years ago, is bisected by the valley of the Neckar River in the southwest corner
of Germany and is shaped by 14th- and 15th-century Gothic style churches and historic
stone defense towers that encircle the inner core. With its fabric mesh that acts as a shield to
protect the structure from intense sunlight and wind, the ThyssenKrupp tower is in dialog
with these ancient towers.
"Designing a building of such importance is a serious responsibility," Jahn says. "The tower
becomes an expression of the progressive culture of ThyssenKrupp and of the progressive
spirit of the citizens of Rottweil."

Project data
Client: ThyssenKrupp,
Rottweil, Germany
Architects: Werner Sobek with
Helmut Jahn, FAIA
Architecture firm: JAHN
Structure and membrane design:
Werner Sobek
Fabrication: Flontex.eu
Membrane Structures
Contractor: Ed. Z├╝blin AG
Project Engineer/Management/
Installation: Taiyo Europe GmbH
Fabric: PTFE-coated glass
mesh (multiple transparencies),
Verseidag-Indutex GmbH

GENIUS LOCI
It makes sense that this fabric-clad tower is located here. Rottweil is almost equidistant
between two historically significant cities linked to the development of fabric/membrane
structures and its industry: south of Rottweil is Radolfzell (located at the northwestern end
of the inland "sea" of Lake Constance, which shares borders with Austria, Switzerland and
Germany). This is where a number of membrane structure fabricators have located as well
as engineering and design firms specializing in tension structures. Farther north is Stuttgart,
where the University of Stuttgart has a history of training dozens of innovative structure
engineers since the 1940s, and where the progenitor of all this activity, Frei Otto, established
his Institute for Lightweight Structures (IL). Many important architects and engineers have
passed through these institutions on their way to creating new and influential firms.
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Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020

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