Swiss Re Headquarters, Munich, Germany

Location: Munich, Germany
Client: Bayerische Rück
Size: 5.5 acres
Status: Completed 2002

A new headquarters for the Swiss Re, a German insurance company, is being constructed near Munich, Germany. The headquarters sits atop an underground parking garage and consists of a two story square doughnut-shaped building with 16 smaller shoe box-shaped office spaces raised above the doughnut and spiraling off of it. Wrapping the entire complex of buildings is an elevated three-story walkway covered in vines. The walkway appears like a hedge floating in space around the building.

The landscape design addresses two primary areas, the zone that lies within the hedge surrounding the doughnut and the reflecting pool in the interior of the doughnut. The design of the ground level is a series of striped quadrants spiraling out from the doughnut. The striping of the quadrants refers to the surrounding agricultural landscape. Each quadrant is a different color: red, blue, yellow, or green. Each stripe is made up of a single plant species or a technical material such as crushed colored glass or colored gravel. Stripes are separated by walkways. Breaks in the stripes allow for a comfortable flow of circulation within and among quadrants.

Other outdoor spaces accommodate dining, meeting, and recreation. Light boxes in each quadrant provide a stripe of colored light glowing from the parking garage below. To deal with the darker shadowy areas under the elevated buildings, the ground is treated as a ‘volume of light’ by using reflective materials such as mirrors and gazing globe. The quadrants are ordered so that the different stripes show their colors at different times during the year. For example, in the red quadrant the Euonymous elatus is a blaze of red in autumn, a field of bulbs blooms with a dazzling red in the spring, and shrubs provide red berries in winter.

The design for the reflecting pool in the interior of the doughnut is conceived of as an elegant, meditative space to catch the light. Like the surrounding landscape, it too is divided into four quadrants with corresponding colors. Water plants are used at crucial areas, one quadrant is filled with water lilies. The pool has a still surface, but just beneath the surface are vibrantly colored gazing globes, marbles, crushed glass, gravel and terra cotta pots that energize what could be an otherwise gloomy, shaded space.