Leading Supermarket Calls for Super Architectural Design

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On an area the size of 14 football pitches, the new building offers an ultra-modern, agile working environment. A working environment that provides plenty of room for cooperation and communication in new ways of working. The ALDI Nord Campus is thus a symbol of the transformation process of the ALDI Nord Group.

The new home of ALDI Einkauf in Essen is an important and necessary step into the future of the corporate group as the inventor of discount supermarkets. Adaptability is essential in retail, especially in an increasingly international and digital world. New work and communication structures that enable a fast and open exchange among departments and employees, both external and internal, are reflected in the architecture.

The ALDI Nord Campus consists mainly of open space offices, co-working areas and communication hubs for various requirements. Among a total of around 1200 permanent workplaces in the main building, there are fewer than 50 individual offices. A central cafe and the staff restaurant create a direct link to the extensive park landscape with water basins, a herb garden and a jogging track, which was designed by WES Landschaftsarchitekten. The office complex is complemented by two multi-storey car parks with a large roof-mounted solar power system, a day-care centre, a porter’s pavilion and a sports pavilion.

Sustainability and foresight

BAID developed a sustainable architecture for the campus that was awarded ‘Gold’ certification by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). Decisive sustainability factors are the large solar power system on the rooftops of the car parks, the consistently-intensive roof greening of the buildings, the use of geothermal energy via heat pumps, a ventilation concept with heat recovery and an efficient basic provision of heat and electricity for the campus via a district heating connection. Special elements are the two water areas on the campus, which collect the rainwater that accumulates on the property’s roofs. The lakes, which, thanks to their design, are much more than mere rainwater retention basins, also increase the sojourn quality on the campus and significantly improve the local microclimate.

Spontaneous, chance encounters

The entire design of the ALDI Nord Campus portrays a contemporary corporate culture in architecture, which focuses on communication and exchange with one another. The large plaza in the centre of the office complex is the focal point. Around the void, which extends over five storeys, the so-called communication hubs provide numerous opportunities for spontaneous meetings. All circulation routes lead across the plaza – everyone inevitably moves through this space. The main entrance to the office complex also leads directly to the central hub.

Construction and design vocabulary

The plaza is column-free and flooded with daylight through a vast, filigree glass roof. The most important additional facilities for ALDI employees are directly adjoining this central space: the lecture hall, the staff restaurant and the cafe. With their oversized sliding glass doors, both catering facilities allow direct access to the stepped outdoor terraces on the two lakes. Between the individual building sections, the plaza with its transparent glass areas opens towards the park landscape on all sides. Eye-catchers in the plaza are the two vertical green walls, which noticeably improve the microclimate and the acoustics in the large indoor space. Combined with numerous acoustic measures that include all wall and ceiling surfaces, they also contribute to a pleasant atmosphere.

The ground-floor plan of the plaza is the defining geometric figure for the entire campus. The signet-like formal vocabulary with rounded triangles or polygons recurs throughout all design elements, from the ground plans of the reception and sports pavilion and the day-care centre to space-defining features such as skylights, windows or objects in the buildings.

BAID designed the building as a reinforced concrete skeleton structure with a classically-modern, horizontally-structured facade with ribbon windows and white aluminium elements.

For the interior design, BAID acted according to the motto ‘plain and clean’, limiting itself to comparatively few, but durable, materials and surfaces. Glass, light-coloured walls and ceilings prevail, the offices are fitted with acoustically-effective and robust carpeting in various shades of grey, and a light-coloured terrazzo floor was poured in the circulation areas and in the plaza. In contrast to the enormous dimensions of the open spaces, BAID has worked with a large area and, because of the acoustics, micro-perforated wooden surfaces to increase comfort. Furniture and triangular luminaires in blue, the CI colour of ALDI Nord, are used in specific places to loosen up the design with their decorative colour.

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