WERK12 by MVRDV 'wows' Munich with expressive artsy elevations
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WERK12 by MVRDV 'wows' Munich with expressive artsy elevations

The façade of mixed-use building WERK12, animated by verbal expressions like ‘HMPF’, ‘AAHHH’ and ‘OH’ found in German comics, pays tribute to the graffiti culture of Munich.

by Jincy Iype Oct 21, 2019

Located nearby Munich’s east station, WERK12 by the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV captures attention with its idiomatic and animated five metre-tall verbal exclamations found in German comics, hosted on its artsy, transparent façade. Conceived in 2014 and completed in 2019, the building WERK12 celebrates the district’s history in tandem by upholding a relevant and contemporary vibe. The stylish structure cheekily exclaims ‘WOW’, ‘OH’ and ‘PUH’, in shouty capitals nonetheless, to onlookers, demonstrating an uncommon ability of a design to be functional and amusing at the same time.

  • WERK12 features 5 m tall colloquial exclamations found in German comics | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    WERK12 features 5-m tall colloquial exclamations found in German comics Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode
  • WERK12 celebrates the district’s history where it is located along with upholding a contemporary vibe | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    The building celebrates the district’s history with its location, along with upholding a contemporary vibe Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode

The 7,700 sqm mixed-use development is located at the Werksviertel-Mitte district of Munich in Germany, and accommodates five levels. While the top floor hosts offices of Audi Business Innovations, the ground floor has been occupied by restaurants and bars. A three-storey gym takes up the levels in between, including one floor solely devoted to a swimming pool. The upper levels of WERK12 also provide spectacular views towards central Munich.

A simple cuboidal structure with transparent facades, WERK12 incorporates massive floor to ceiling glass walls (5.5m between each floor), and houses a visible external circulation. The use of diagonal staircases curling around the building offers future flexibility for interior reconfigurations, along with providing structural stability.

  • An entire floor of the building has been dedicated to a swimming pool | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    An entire floor of the building has been dedicated to a swimming pool Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode
  • Incorporation of diagonal staircases wrapping the structure | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Incorporation of diagonal staircases wrapping the structure Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode
  • The building offers stunning views of central Munich | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    The building offers stunning views of central Munich Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode

The attention-grabbing, animated façade of the building comprises of bold lettering, which spells out common expressions from the German version of Donald Duck comics. These five metre-tall urban art pieces were developed alongside local artists Christian Engelmann and Beate Engl, and exclaims delightfully amusing and comical expressions such as ‘HMPF’ and ‘AAHHH’. The conversational nature of the chosen expressions is a direct tribute to the region’s graffiti culture, and the use of signage found on the old site, which often dictated such words.

WERK12 is also illuminated during the night time, its simple geometry and materials transforming into a lively light show, as vivid and bright as the expressions on its envelope.

  • Comical expressions such as ‘WOW’ and ‘HMPF’ hosted on the structure’s façade | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Comical expressions such as ‘WOW’ and ‘HMPF’ hosted on the structure’s façade Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode
  • Conversational expression such as ‘AAHH’ hosted on the building | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Conversational expression such as ‘AAHH’ hosted on the building Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode
  • The mixed-use development transformed by illumination strategy at night | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    The mixed-use development transformed by illumination strategy at night Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode
  • WERK12 transforms into a vivid lightshow during night | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    WERK12 transforms into a vivid lightshow during night Image Credit: Ossip van Duivenbode

“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!” 

  • Façade artwork during the day (left) and night (right)| WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Façade artwork during day and night Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Inspirations for WERK12’s façades | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Inspirations for WERK12’s façades Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Elevations | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Elevations Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Section and Ground Floor Plan | WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Section and Ground Floor Plan Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Floor Plan – Level 1 and 2| WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Floor Plan – Level 1 and 2 Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Floor Plan – Level 3 and 4| WERK12 | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Floor Plan – Level 3 and 4 Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

Project Details

Name of the project: WERK12
Location: Munich, Germany
Area: 7,700 sqm
Year of completion: 2019
Client: OTEC GmbH & Co. KG
Programme: Mixed-Use (Gym, bars and restaurants, offices)
Architect: MVRDV (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries)
Founding Partner in-charge: Jacob van Rijs
Partner/Director: Fokke Moerel
Design team: Markus Nagler, Roy Sieljes, Jonathan Schuster, Sven Thorissen
Visualisations: Antonio Luca Coco, Kirill Emelianov, Pavlos Ventouris
Strategy and development: Jan Knikker
Co-Architects: N-V-O Nuyken von Oefele Architekten BDA, Munich
Artwork commission: Christian Engelmann and Beate Engl
Structural engineering: Wolf+
MEP: Teuber + Viel

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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