Floors make the space
by Martina Metzner
Dec 8, 2014

Usually, architects first ponder what the floor should look like once they’ve finished planning the building itself. That need not be the case, as our five examples show: Buildings where the floor makes the space and is a key element of the architectural concept.

Giving everyday school life a rhythm

Stuttgart’s Behnisch Architekten set out to use the right material for the floor to highlight the architecture’s special features, its functions and organization. In the school they designed for Ergolding (nr. Landshut), the architects created an interior in which the users feel good and can easily find their way round. The high school has a total footprint of 12,500 square meters and boasts different floorings and colors, thus coding the class rooms, corridors, stories and recreation zones. The individual stories feature striking floor and wall colors, such as orange, blue or bright green, meaning school kids always know where they are. The corridors are fitted with linoleum, while class rooms and staff rooms have Kugelgarn® carpets destined to spark a sense of warmth and inclusion. “We wanted to give everyday school life a rhythm of sorts, the atrium with its paths and squares on the one hand, the living (class)room on the other,” comments Robert Hösle from Behnisch Architekten. He suggests that architects in general should pay more attention to floor coverings.

Communicative flow

With clients such as Walmart, Brooks Brothers, Levi’s, Nestlé, UPS, Samsung, Nike and Google, the Apex PR agency, based in Toronto, is one of the really big players in the communications business. For its new office, together with the architects at HOK Canada, it chose “Curious” carpet tiles (they can be laid as modules) manufactured by Belgium’s Mohawk – from its “State of Mind II” collection. The result: bright rooms with gray and white furniture and highlights in orange, magenta and turquoise. The gleaming color range is perfectly underlined by the inclusion in the concept of the floor, which runs from light to medium gray to anthracite. The “Curious” carpet tiles are made of the light-fast, dirt-repellent DuraColor fibers Mohawk has newly developed from Nylon and the underlay consists of EcoFlex ICT. “The choice of flooring links the design and the flowing transitions within the premises – you move from zones with an open design into the individual meeting rooms,” comments Kenneth Evans, Senior Vice President at Apex PR. And adds: “And it looks spectacular!”

All-over Turnhout

Rotterdam’s Makkink Bey is renowned for its holistic architectural and design concepts. For a private residence for art collectors in Turnhout in Belgium, the duo of architect Rianne Makkink and designer Jürgen Bey conjured up an especially eye-catching floor that buttresses the architectural concept. Curved graphic lines run across the floors, walls and curation, transforming the rooms into an artwork in their own right. In other rooms, different colored wooden floor boards create an all-over pattern. In the bedroom, a base for the bed with an irregular silhouette iterates the floor’s texture but is noticeably only a carpet. The patterns are abstract shapes based on the structure of the old marble and wooden floors that existed in the building and give the overall new finish a playful feel.

Pebbles for pleasant relaxation

In the entrance to the maternity ward in Essen’s Elisabeth Hospital graffiti on the wall welcomes the mothers-to-be with the words: “Stars are not born on high, but here.” The piles of pebbles next to the slogan are the eye-catchers of the new corporate design that Cologne interior designer Sylvia Leydecker has devised. Leydecker’s 100% Interior company is specialized in office and hospital projects, with the focus on creating spaces that foster a clear identity – or, in the case of the maternity ward, an atmosphere that significantly reduces stress. The pebbles are the visual feature of the furniture, and of the floor. The pebbles blend perfectly to form an abstract floor pattern along with the bright rubber flooring, as they are cut out using ultrasound equipment. “The floor,” Leydecker explains, “can define areas, making wall dividers superfluous, and plays a major role in the overall context as its presence as the framing device is quite decisive here.”

Welcome to variety

“F3” stands for “Futur 3” and is a programmatic part of the Schmela Building in Düsseldorf – and of the series of Thursday evening events held there – they shed light on the future of art and science, of society, the city and the museum. In 1971 Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck designed the hard-edged house in old-town Düsseldorf for art dealer Alfred Schmela and since 2009 it has been a satellite for Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, which organizes the series. For this special venue, in 2013 Düsseldorf artist Andreas Schmitten masterminded an installation called “A Set for the Schmela Building”: elements of a futurist hotel bar, a variety theater and an opulent lounge in strong colors forge an exciting contrast to the structuralist architecture. Schmitten has made use of Vorwerk’s woven “Nandoo” carpet on both stories. The carpet gleams in a powerful purple with bright-green highlights on the lower floor, for the stage and the rows of seats. In the bar on the floor above, the two-tone nuanced carpet corresponds with the red bar-top and the black-and-white stripes of the domed ceiling. The Schmela Building now forms an “ideal venue for coming debates all about the museum in the 21st century,” proposes curator Doris Krystof, who is in charge of the series.
All these example prove that choosing the right floor is not some minor matter, but play a key role as the building’s “fourth wall”, strongly influencing the quality of the space. While in recent years, often the focus has been on imitation natural flooring, new floor coverings with new materials and laying technologies create new scope – a bonus for anyone who takes them seriously.