Laufen Forum: Swiss bathroom company's new HQ

Laufen's visitor centre employs an unconventional architectural style


Client: Laufen
Architect: Nissen & Wentzlaff
Engineer: Walther Mory Maier


Swiss bathroom company, Laufen has built a visitor and presentation centre at its headquarters in an unconventional architectural style, without windows.

The windowless building in Laufen is a 6,500 m3 structure designed by Basel architects Nissen & Wentzlaff. The two-storey building uses virtually the same reinforced concrete structure throughout.

The structure was made possible with the aid of computer-aided milled templates in a concrete shell.

The two-storey concrete facade was cast in one mold, giving it a similar appearance throughout.

Ceilings were added later on.

The building is also notable for being designed as a scaled replica of a Laufen ceramic washbasin. Symbolically, the building was cast in one piece, exactly like its ceramic model.


The main entrance looks onto the street and visitors are received at an information desk and then walk around the exhibits. Starting upstairs, exhibition booths are separated by partitions. These house a permanent exhibition of Laufen designer bathrooms. Three test baths also invite visitors to take a dip in private.

This gallery is linked to the ground floor by two staircases. More exhibition booths are located along the outside wall and separated by retaining walls. The central atrium is used as an area for events and functions. Cellulose plaster covers the hard concrete ceiling, improving the space’s acoustic qualities. Bathrooms, an escape stairwell and cable risers are accommodated in a separate part of the building.

Skylights in the roof flood the atrium of the structure with daylight. These light domes are positioned so that the exhibits remain unaffected by seasonal changes in the sun’s position.

The skylights also play an important role in the building’s ventilation system. Lamellar vents are located between the retaining walls that separate the exhibition booths on the ground floor. In terms of area, their openings are identical in size to the skylights that can be opened to air the building.

The skylights and lamellar vents are opened at night to allow the building to cool down. This environmentally-friendly air conditioning design came about after the record temperatures experienced in the European summer of 2003.

The ventilation also has a life-saving function, in the event of a fire it reliably extracts smoke.

Controlled air conditioning of the windowless building ensures resource-saving, reliable ventilation and air is circulated twice every hour. The reinforced concrete roof, with its 48 built-in skylights also proved to be a tough challenge for planners and builders alike. The 44-cm thick concrete cover was cast in one piece over 14 hours. It encapsulates twelve thick steel concrete bracing ropes, piping and electrical installations.

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