Optimal Media logistic center

Logistic / Fulfillment – Centre for Optimal Media- Röbel/Müritz, Germany, 2000

„When Carsten Roth builds a warehouse amidst the 650 lakes on the Mecklenburg lake plateau in a town with 7,000 inhabitants, somewhere among the woods, water and meadows, then he does not lament the lack of commissions in the metropolis but immerses himself in the task at hand as if there were nothing else. Even if, according to Siegfried Kracauer, each production process takes place “publicly hidden” what is involved here is after all a workplace that shapes the life and everyday experience of about five hundred people, in this particular case not only during the day but around the clock during the shifts. The booming company Optimal Media Production, which produces and distributes data storage media in the form of CD-ROMs, LPs and DVDs full of music, images and software, carries the proverbial backwardness of this region, which has never allowed itself to be steam rolled by the achievements of modernism, ad absurdum. The client from the West knows that the issue is not only what one does but also how one does it. It is not alone the latest technology that is decisive but also a good atmosphere among the staff. In other words: architecture.”

by Klaus Dieter Weiss

„Carsten Roth is not dependant on the superficial significance of a particular location, for him what is significant is the essential nature of the task at hand, building blocks that have their consequences for further thought in his own studio and for the awareness of those who penetrate the result or consciously experience it. The depth of his work extends from the master plan to design guidelines for the ducts and piping for the building services carried below the floor slabs. For Roth the idea of making the neighbouring printing and service building, erected in 1999 with a facade of perforated aluminium roof elements that in part magically veil the windows, a kind of architectural system building element for this booming industry never arose. A repetition would have deprived the original building of its strength. A business that started ten years ago with a staff of twenty as a pure pressing and completion works for copying data developed speedily to become a so-called fulfilment partner of the media industry, in addition to distribution commissions from the Hamburg parent company, Edel Musik, which with 1,100 workers and a turnover of DM 1,183 million is the largest independent music concern in Europe, there is a move towards providing logistical services for distribution clients. The 100 million CDs and DVDs, 4.5 million LPs and 4.5 million MCs which the works completes yearly are distributed in 2,500 daily commissions. As copies can be made within a few hours the stock of the largest independent completion works for CDs, records and music cassettes in Germany can be reduced to a minimum. The computer operated robot in the stacked shelving hall is so intelligent that during the day it registers the demand for individual titles and at night rearranges the entire stock to ensure speedier delivery the next day. This technology is immensely impressive but until recently its architectural expression lacked excitement. In the case of Carsten Roth this is different. His stacked shelving warehouse, linked to form a building unit with packaging, distribution and the entrance to the works has openings and shows its face. From outside one gains an idea of the business inside as the areas of plate glass, strip glazing or double web panels, which allow one to forget the concrete building made of prefabricated elements, are like cinema screens which project the inside outwards, at times clearly and openly, at other times distorted by a lens effect caused by the particular glass layer, but always in a puzzling way, and only in sections. Above and beyond the anthracite grey aluminium facade there is here an intellectual but not a formal parallel to the first building. The ultimate refinement in the handling of light and placing of windows in the stacked shelving warehouse is visible only from the neighbouring printing and service building.

The original view southwards from the conference room there, which the new building would have blocked, is preserved by the fact the parallel oversized glass areas on the narrow ends of the stacked shelving hall allow a view through the entire 80 metre depth of the building, past the full height pallet shelving accessed by a manually operated fork lift. Subtle link- ings of problems of this kind, in which the rational aspect is always related to the human being, were, incidentally, the decisive factor in awarding this competition design the commission. In a concrete application to the individual workers in this company Carsten Roth developed with his new building for the logistics centre, which can be expanded 100% westwards, a master plan which gives this company that initially exploded in an unplanned fashion, a new basis. Ignoring the previous company car park on the site of the new building, the architect shifted the main entrance at right angles to the works road, the spine of the complex, from east to south. As a result the firm acquired a far more striking presence if compared to the first building phases. At the same time in the industrial building the production processes were condensed and optimised. Storage, packaging and distribution are closely linked although the entrance routes for the staff and the visitors cross at first floor level. The elevated, canyon-like entrance channel, which allows a view of the printing works that is connected by an airy building bridge and also a view through bands of high level glazing into the ground floor level of the logistics centre, separates the almost square (and for this reason most effective) building measuring 92 by 80 metres into two separate units. The facades bordering on this incision, which is also used during breaks from work, therefore form an important entrance area. The flat section of the building swings out in two projecting zones. The stacked shelving store has, above high level glazing to the ground floor arranged like display cases, a light catcher made of zinc sheeting which is sculpturally shaped without the usual welded seams. Opposite, for security reasons, the entrance axis is repeated in the building and is overseen by the staff at the reception. The eyes and feet of the workers take separate paths between the company car park and the social rooms in the print works at different times, the canyon outside is secured by an almost invisible net of steel cables. Proof is offered that varied and exciting spaces can be created in an industrial building including here the drama of the two escape staircases interpreted as concrete sculpture. Hovering galleries, inserted glass office wings, glasshouses which light the ground floor from the roof almost make this logistics centre for data storage media a kind of hall in which Orange Blue, Craig David, Baha Men or other stare of Edel Musik could appear live. Indeed the restrained elegance of the colours and materials in the reception area suggest that the building has a cultural content. Even the facades offer proof that the Taylor system, which Kracauer criticised because it equivocated the legs of the Tiller girls with the hands in a factory, could be overcome here in an aesthetic and productive way.”

Reprinted with friendly permission from 
Klaus Dieter Weiss and Springer Publishing House, Vienna – New York
„Choreographie der Produktion”, published in „architektur.aktuell” Nr. 05/2001