How architect Christoph Ingenhoven improved the standards for sustainable building
Ingenhoven Architects have influenced our environment with their concept of ‘supergreen’ architecture since the '90s, Düsseldorf
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A quiet, focused atmosphere dominates the Ingenhoven Architects office in Düsseldorf. Although around a hundred people work here, you wouldn’t know from the space’s ambient volume.

In the large room with high ceilings, workers sit spread along the long desk. A large window front offers a gaping view of the harbor. Ingenhoven Architects are well known for their innovative approaches regarding office designs, and for their sustainable architectural concepts. Their “supergreen” concept has had a notable influence on our environment. Christoph Ingenhoven, boss and namesake of the architectural firm, also relies on the skilful combination of layout, design and lighting for his own rooms.

This portrait is part of our ongoing series with Vitra. Visit Vitra Magazine to find out more about Christoph Ingenhoven’s architectural and interior practice.

Ingenhoven Architects are well versed in office concepts. Over the last 30 years, the architectural firm has designed and built the headquarters of companies such as Lufthansa, Swarovski and Google. For that, they’ve constantly and closely examined how people work and what exactly makes for a good working atmosphere. As a result, Ingenhoven Architects’ focus has settled on a gentle combination of aesthetics and sustainability—buildings that don’t require too much energy but create a comfortable atmosphere for working and living. “The impact of what we as architects create and how we do it, is relatively big. We are working in a public sphere, we are working for it. This is something we always have to keep in mind. We cannot get away from architecture for even a second of our lives,” Ingenhoven explains.

“The impact of what we as architects create and how we do it, is relatively big. We are working in a public sphere, we are working for it.”

For Christoph Ingenhoven, there was no doubt of whether or not they would apply these revelations to their own office. “Work has always played an important role for people but where the work is done has long been determined and set. Like on a farm or at a smith’s shop. That’s not the case for office work. There are plenty of things in that space that we cannot influence, but also plenty that we can.” Over the last ten to twenty years, Ingenhoven has had the opportunity to observe firsthand how the focus has shifted to examine how efficient, healthy and motivating a work atmosphere can be—and what they as architects can do to create it.

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“With supergreen we wanted to communicate that our concept is a comprehensive idea, that every part of a project has to be green.”

According to Ingenhoven, their previous office space was too divided. “We may have had big rooms, but we had three of them. That kind of division can work well in certain companies with such close quarters but it can also have big disadvantages. I referred to it as the ‘Siberia Effect’ because you simply didn’t see certain colleagues for months on end.” He sat down with consultants and staff to plan the perfect concept for the new office—from the lighting to the furnishings. The high-ceilinged rooms have no visible supports, allowing for an uninterrupted view through the office. Only the meeting rooms are separated by semi-transparent dividers. Throughout the space, you can find the company’s own work in the form of models, which act as references for visitors and staff alike.

Right now, Ingenhoven Architects are working on a building that rethinks the shopping experience. “This is a model of an anti-suburban shopping center, an urban expansion of an area for shops, with one-and-a-half meter tall green hedges. They should cover the building entirely and make it look like a green hill in the city.” Although this sounds like an already very progressive idea, Ingenhoven wants to take it a step further. Which is why he came up with supergreen: “We wanted to communicate that our concept is a comprehensive idea, that every part of a project has to be green. From the building’s design to the material used; from the construction process to its realisation.”

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Projects by Ingenhoven Architects

Supergreen and super stylish

“Architects really like to surround themselves with certain kinds of furniture and with certain kinds of objects.”

With this concept, Christoph Ingenhoven has proved himself to be the forerunner of sustainable architecture since the 1990s, transcending mere ecological standards regardless of where in the world it is realised. His architectural projects can be found in the dry climate of Saudi Arabia as well as in the almost alpine area of South Bavaria. Christoph Ingenhoven provides statistics to support his architectural philosophy: “50 percent of this planet’s energy use is caused by constructions and buildings. So it is our responsibility, living in an industrialized country as Germany, to reduce this use of resources and energy by 50 percent.” Together with his co-workers, Ingenhoven is continually experimenting with new ideas. “It’s a constant search for new approaches, a process of trial and error.”

The long work table in the office encourages communication and breaks up isolation. “We’re all sitting at one table: we’re all in the same boat, and yet everyone has enough space.” Each work-station has identical technical equipment, which allows for freedom and an uncomplicated working atmosphere, even when teamwork is required. Essentially, the workspace is a perfect reflection of Ingenhoven’s supergreen concept.

Because the architects often work late into the evenings, Ingenhoven has taken a close look at the space’s lighting and acoustics: “We’ve integrated a lot of acoustic absorption into the ceiling to keep everyone from being disturbed by reflections or noise in this large space. The lighting also offers a different and more lively atmosphere at night than fluorescent lighting would.”

For Ingenhoven, the office is more than just a static workspace. The fact that he leaves nothing to chance in the design of the space can be traced back to his own profession. “Architects really like to surround themselves with certain kinds of furniture and with certain kinds of objects. And those send certain signals. A language that we speak.” Ingenhoven’s language is clear and easy to understand.

Thank you, Christoph,

for the beautiful insights into your wonderful office. More info on the work by Ingenhoven Architects can be found here.

This article and video was created in cooperation with Vitra, with whom we have portrayed many more exciting individuals with a special feel for design. To find out more about Ingenhoven’s office, visit the Vitra Magazine.

Text: Milena Zwerenz
Photography: Max Brunnert