Combining playful design with contemporary architecture, Dutch firm MVRDV has just completed WERK12, a mixed-use development near Munich’s East Station that catches the eye with its bold and expressive art facade. Lifting verbal expressions from German versions of Donald Duck comics, the facade is punctuated with 5-meter-tall lettering that spell out words like ‘WOW’ and ‘HMPH.’ Located at the heart of the Werksviertel-Mitte district, the project is part of an urban regeneration plan to transform a former industrial site.

Spanning an area of 7,700 square meters, WERK12 features five floors occupied by restaurants and bars on the ground floor, the offices of Audi Business Innovations on the top floor, and a three-story gym facility in between with one story dedicated to an indoor swimming pool. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls wrap around the building to bring natural light and views of the city in. The line between interior and exterior is further blurred with the addition of external staircases that curl around the building and connect to 3.25-meter-wide outdoor terraces on each floor. 

The bold facade was created in collaboration with local artists Christian Engelmann and Beate Engl. The lettering and the colloquial expressions are a nod to the area’s graffiti culture and use of signage. At night, the letters light up to create a “vibrant lightshow.” The five-meter-tall letters also span the height of each floor, which have extra-tall ceilings that allow for mezzanines or other level changes for greater flexibility.

Related: MVRDV unveils pro-bono vision to reopen the lost canals of The Hague

“The area of the Werksviertel-Mitte district has already undergone such interesting changes, transforming from a potato factory to a legendary entertainment district,” says founding partner of MVRDV Jacob van Rijs. “With our design, we wanted to respect and celebrate that history, while also creating a foundation for the next chapter. WERK12 is stylish and cool on one hand, but on the other it doesn’t take itself so seriously – it’s not afraid to say ‘PUH’ to passers-by!”

+ MVRDV

Images by Ossip van Duivenbode