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Interview: Werner Sobek, Founder of the group Werner Sobek

Feather-light façades

His name is synonymous with visionary building projects and collaborations with star architects like Zaha Hadid. Professor Dr.-Ing. Werner Sobek is an award-winning architect and consulting engineer. His design studios develop buildings that bridge the gap between impressive architecture and green innovation. In an interview, we spoke to the pioneer of lightweight textile construction about his personal approach and the urban planning of the future.

November 2018

Professor Sobek, you are a co-founder of the German Sustainable Building Council and President of the Stuttgart Institute of Sustainability. How can lightweight textile construction be combined with sustainability today? Has your company developed an outstanding construction project that conveys this perfect symbiosis of responsible architecture and lightweight textile construction?

Lightweight textile construction is a central element on the path to more sustainability. In view of the ever-increasing world population and dwindling resources, we will need to create a more built-up environment with fewer materials in the future – and the materials we use will have to be installed in a way that enables them to be fully returned back to their technical and biological cycles. The opportunities offered by textile construction therefore predestine it as the key to the sustainable construction of the future. One example that illustrates the potential and significance of lightweight textile construction particularly well is the test tower I designed for ThyssenKrupp in Rottweil. The tower, which has already won several awards, has the highest textile façade in the world. This not only plays an important aesthetic role, but also reduces thermally induced stresses in the structure, as well as transverse vibrations caused by the wind. Due to the shape and materials of the façade alone, we were therefore able to make a 15% saving in the amount of concrete and steel used. This enabled us to conserve valuable resources – and makes it easier to separate the materials when the structure is eventually dismantled at the end of its lifecycle.

Which current trends and innovations from the field of lightweight textile construction will, in your opinion, have a significant influence on architecture?

As the test tower of ThyssenKrupp very clearly shows, these days we can create very different geometrics (and dimensions) with textile construction materials than assumed a few years ago. Lightweight textile construction will therefore take on a much bigger role in the design of our building shells than it did before. Also playing an important role is the adaptivity of textile constructions, which is currently being researched and developed as part of the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 1244. The potential emerging here will not only benefit our façades, but also, and in particular, the design of the interiors.

Awaiting visitors to Techtextil in Frankfurt am Main from 14-17 May 2019 is a special event on the topic of “City of the Future”. What is your vision of the city of the future and which role will lightweight textile construction play in this?

The city of the future will be sustainable and breathtakingly beautiful at the same time. Lightweight textile construction will play a central role in this city – adaptive textile façades will significantly increase the sustainability, user comfort and building quality, both in terms of the design of the façades as well as the interiors.

#Werner Sobek #Lightweight Textile Construction #CityofTheFuture #Techtextil

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