"The pearlescent facade panels and window openings slide towards the sky in the form of strips, seemingly with the powerful dynamics of a thrown spear" wrote the Fachverband Baustoffe & Bauteile für vorgehängte hinterlüftete Fassaden e. V. (FVHF). Close up, the Paläon Research and Experience Centre – the slanting panels and intersections of which are meant to be reminiscent of geological layers pushed up against each other – impresses with its complex geometry and precise detailing. From afar, the building merges with the background because the sky and the surrounding meadow landscape are reflected in the facade. For this unique facade design, the Paläon in Schöningen received the German Facade Prize for back-ventilated curtain wall facades back in 2013. In July this year, the Research and Experience Centre also received the Retail & Presentation Award given by AIT magazine.
Open-cast mining of brown coal has uncovered man’s oldest hunting weapons
In the 1990s, open-cast mining of brown coal in the Helmstedt rural district uncovered hunting weapons approx. 300,000 years old. These are known as the "Schöninger spears", man’s oldest hunting weapons. It was intended to make the unique find accessible to visitors in the context of an exhibition venue. For this reason, the Schöninger Speere Research and Experience Centre has been created at the location of the archaeological find. The design and construction of the building are the result of cooperation between pbr AG, the Swiss architect Holzer Kobler and the landscape architects Topotek 1 from Berlin.
The centre, which opened in 2013, combines exhibitions and research under one roof on a usable floor area of 2,300 m². Visitors are welcomed in an impressive three-storey foyer at the heart of the building. It serves as point of distribution and congregation, and also as a recreational space. With its three storey-high open space, it allows views to all storeys. The exhibition tour, which is supported by modern media technology, leads to the top level and the two large exhibition rooms via an extensive staircase. The rooms are designed for flexible multi-functionality as they can be used for various purposes, both those requiring large spaces as well as smaller exhibition units in sub-divided areas. The laboratories and research workshops form an important component, and can be viewed and experienced by visitors.
Unique mirror facade reflects the image of the landscape
The mirror facade of the building not only represents geological layers pushed up against each other, but also reflects the image of the surrounding landscape. The system of the curtain wall with back-ventilation makes it possible to arrange the facade cladding at different degrees of incline. Narrow aluminium strips encircle the entire hexagonal building, including its corners, in precise detail. The window openings were arranged such that the location of the find can be viewed. The irregular appearance of the different panel strips was achieved by using two different widths and a slanted arrangement of the joints. With the Paläon Research and Experience Centre on the edge of the town of Schöningen it has been possible to combine facade, history, place, landscape and man in an unusual way.