Redefining Boundaries

In WAGNER Design Lab, architects Titus Bernhard and Andreas Weissenbach have recently realized a giant display window for Wagner. Thanks to Stefan Diez’s flexible “D2” system, its interior can be used flexibly for anything from a showroom to a work environment.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 3/9/2021

It all began with an idea: Peter Wagner and his brother Rainer, the third generation of a family to run a seating manufacturing business, together decided to spectacularly transform their parents’ house in the municipality of Langenneufnach deep in southern Germany. Until then, what had formerly been their family residence had been serving as a showroom for the company’s brand “Wagner Living” brand – and, as the finishing touch, an annex with a massive glass façade was planned, one on pillars and that would appear to hover high above the existing edifice. Once the experimental design was on the table, Peter Wagner did not waste any time in passing on the relevant order to the architects at Titus Bernhard. “Commercial construction is often neglected although just as much dedication can be invested in such places and an equally conceptual approach taken to them as would be expected of residential construction, and this is something that Wagner recognized,” explains Bernhard. Together with his colleague Andreas Weissenbach Bernhard accepted the challenge and designed a rectangular annex on slender supports and using a steel-framed construction technique. A project of superlatives at all levels. Alongside the 160 tons of steel this remarkable piece of architecture used the world’s largest glass panels – four sheets of triple-insulated glass, each measuring 3.04 x 19.21 meters. Manufactured by local glass refiners sedak, who had already earned their spurs in international projects such as one with Norman Forster Architects for Apple. In fact, sedak even designed its own machinery in order to purpose-manufacture these giant panels. The installation of the glass in itself demanded a great deal of skill and know-how from everybody involved. After all, “fitting seven tons of glass up on high was always going to be a challenge,” comments Bernhard.

And because of the good teamwork, this bold undertaking did succeed, all four elements have since been fitted and they have now even proved their resilience. Besides their dimensions, something else that is fascinating about these glass panes is their filigree structure. “Each one consists of three individual sheets which are joined together by means of an edge bond, the spaces in between them are filled with inert gas. The thinnest pane is made of float glass which is eight millimeters in thickness,” explains Bernhard. The transparency of the façade, which manages without window frames, perfectly underscores the WAGNER Design Lab’s architecture, which is reduced to a bare minimum. As an ensemble and despite its considerable span lengths, the building sports an airy look, without detracting from the charm of its natural surroundings. Although it is sometimes invisible to the viewer it is pervaded by Wagner’s DNA, right down to its tiniest details: “The fixing points for the individual panes are chunks of volcanic metal which exactly correspond to the hinge for our Dondola systems; these will absorb any movement by the glass,” explains Wagner. In the same way that, in the “D1” family of chairs by designer Stefan Diez, this allows for movement in the chair’s fixed connection with its base so as to take the weight of the back, in the case of the WAGNER Design Lab it compensates for the impact of ambient environmental conditions on the panes of glass. Moreover, the curtain-wall facing, with its certified wood and mineral wool makes for pleasant indoor temperatures.

Stefan Diez and Peter Wagner with "D1"

Behind its glass panels, the WAGNER Design Lab spreads out over a wide area and does not use a single supporting pillar. The intention is for the fascination generated by the building’s architecture to extend to and remain constant over its generous interior. Together with the architects at Gonzalez Haase AAS, Diez has made a major contribution to this: In a matte black, the “D2” system recently produced by the three partners structures the open white expanse, dividing it up into a showroom, a work area and a lounge. “The ‘D2’ system allows us to display all the elements that a modern office requires,” explains Peter Wagner. It is based on a construction kit with aluminum profiles, connectors and honeycomb panels – a sustainable overall setup and a light construction. All the elements are simply plugged together and they can be assembled without screws. “Stefan Diez has really conjured up something ingenious here,” comments Peter Wagner. In the WAGNER Design Lab the “D2” system showcases the models of chair available from Wagner Living in a kind of giant type case. “No other shelving of these dimensions succeeds in offering this kind of stability with such thin panels which are, after all, only plugged together,” explains Peter Wagner. Next to the shelving is a nine-meter table which offers plenty of space for working, as well as practical recessed ducts for cable management. Visually speaking, the table boasts clear lines, as well. There is also a lounge – slightly separated by transparent curtains – for breaks and meetings. In combination with the extensive length of the room and the “D2”’s clear lines this makes for fascinating vistas from any perspective. The Wagner staff from the Marketing, Design and Interior Design departments can thus use the WAGNER Design Lab flexibly as an alternative to working from home and for all kinds of creative work.

In these troubled times in particular, being able to use space for a multitude of functions is something particularly desirable – and, as a construction kit with aluminum profiles, connectors and honeycomb panels, “D2” fulfills this perfectly. Accordingly, the WAGNER Design Lab functions as a case study for an uncompromising modern office. In the near future Wagner will be offering a configurator with which it will be possible to design a furniture system digitally just the way the user wants it. Instead of a fixed product, Wagner will supply the connecting elements and arrange for local artisans to assemble them. An ideal starting point for people’s own creative designs, from soundproof booths to exhibition architecture or work environments. Stefan Diez has thought about the materials for this with a view to recycling. If constructions are sorted into types, they can be completely recycled. “An entirely new and revolutionary furniture concept,” summarizes Peter Wagner.