On a site formerly used for experiments on solar energy, Stuttgart-based architectural practice Behnisch Architekten has completed Building 668 (KIT Energy Lab 2.0), a massive testing lab for new energy systems as part of a scheme to move Germany toward greater adoption of renewable energy.
Located at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) campus near Stuttgart, the KIT Energy Lab 2.0 is also remarkable for its eye-catching design — the timber-framed structure is wrapped in translucent polycarbonate cladding and topped with a dramatic sawtooth roof as a nod to the industrial character of the neighboring buildings. Its polycarbonate exterior allows a consistent amount of light into the simple, low-carbon building, which lights up like a lantern at night.
Completed over the course of four years, the KIT Energy Lab 2.0 spans an area of 18,621 square feet over two floors with simple layouts conducive for flexibility. The ground floor is centered on a large, double-height test hall with work areas — including the test hall and an office, meeting and IT/server room — lining the north side of the building, while the transformer rooms and control station are located on the southern end.
A central stairway and elevator lead up to the second floor, which consists of additional office space, a small staff kitchen, a meeting room, lab room, control station, test preparation room and a bridge over the column-free test hall that connects to large gallery spaces.
The interiors echo the simple and industrial look of the exterior. Exposed timber trusses, unpainted wooden surfaces, lofty ceiling heights and oversized lighting fixtures emphasize the industrial motif. Natural light floods the test hall, which accommodates the areas “Power-Hardware in the Loop” (PHIL) and “Smart Energy System Control Laboratory” (SESCL) as well as assembly areas for tests. The KIT Energy Lab 2.0 was created in partnership with the Helmholtz Centres, the National Aeronautics and Space Research Center of the Federal Republic of Germany (DLR) and Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ).
Photography by David Matthiessen via Behnisch Architekten