Hall A, opened in autumn 2008, increases the exhibition area of the Grazer Messe (Graz Trade Fair) on two levels by a total of 13,500 m2. Innovative building technology helped above all to reduce costs — and is also well hidden.
Swiveling the axes: distancing from Kada's Stadthalle on Hötzendorfstrasse in Graz.
Photos: Riegler Riewe
The design by the office of Riegler Riewe Architekten stood out from the other competition entries for the new Hall A of the Grazer Messe because it offered the greatest potential for the further development of the Fair. From the very start the architects had planned the approach to "their" hall via two foyers, the Foyer Ost facing towards Fröhlichgasse is a junction in the infrastructure that would have allowed the fair to expand by a further three halls. By orienting it along the line of Fröhlichgasse the trade fair hall was swivelled out of the axis of the Stadthalle, and moved back from Conrad-von-Hötzendorf Strasse. This preserves the view of Kada's adjoining spectacular Stadthalle and its projecting canopy from the south, while also creating a spacious forecourt that can be used as a turning area for delivery vehicles or for taxis and buses. A concrete linking building connects the new trade fair hall with Kada's Stadthalle on both main levels.
The formal idiom of the new hall is just as restrained as the approach it takes towards Conrad-von-Hötzendorf-Straße and the Stadthalle.
The interior is remarkably raw and dimmed. Asphalt floors and exposed concrete walls convey a sense of economy, while the central row of columns beside the four projecting lift shafts (that can also be read as a means of articulation) was used for reasons of cost and to halve the required span of the roof structure (to 33 metres). Guide tracks were inserted in the gluelam beams of structural system on the upper level (that are painted grey to match the concrete) and in the downstand concrete beams on the ground floor: mobile partition walls that run in these tracks can be used to divide up the large space into segments, when not in use they are stored behind the load-bearing reinforced concrete walls.
Lobby of the upper level.
The foyers are brighter. At the core they open upwards past both levels of the hall, creating for those who come in after passing through a low entrance area with boxes housing the ticket desks and cloakrooms an effect that is almost theatrical. Opposite the doors to the halls infrastructure strips for service spaces, offices, toilets and, on the level of the upper hall, a restaurant are arranged around the roofed "light wells" on a total of three levels and are reached by corridors, each of which extends through the entire width of the foyer. The lift towers, escalators and open staircases leading upwards from the "light wells" seem like independent building elements. To preserve the unity of the spatial system all the floors are coloured linden green, and the walls of the service spaces are all clad with black fibre cement.
Dark grey clothing: the facade.
The article in full length and more pictures can be found in architektur.aktuell.
Externally the double walled hall directly engages in a discourse that results from the interplay of function and style and has been conducted as long as architecture has been aware of one of its constant inherent problems: should it show how it functions or clad itself decoratively? The Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty are not only symbols of the cities in which they are located but are also effective symbols of the poles of this discussion, The Graz Trade Fair hall lies precisely in between. Externally a zone for building services, escape stairs and cleaning catwalks runs around the two-storey hall. Its visibility, while essentially preserved, is minimised because it is hidden behind a skin of bays of dense mesh expanded metal. If left undisguised the glass facades of the foyer would compete unduly with those of the Stadthalle. The dark grey, light-absorbing steel cladding is far more unobtrusive. So unobtrusive indeed that at night it is visible only due to the lights that project from the roof. The cladding also has soft folds. To optimise durability and stiffness each of the bays was canted on the diagonal, which relaxes the monotony of the windowless external skin and, to a certain extent, enriches it ornamentally. (…)