An intelligent tower
Franz Kneidinger, Heinz Stögmüller
Opened in 2007, the Wissensturm (Knowledge Tower) complex is a sixteen-floor tower, a kind of library-city, a cultural and educational facility that houses the Lentos Kunstmuseum (Linz Art Museum) and the Ars Electronica Center integrated into the Austrian city’s urban context.
Wissensturm, meaning «Knowledge Tower», is a concept well suited to an architecture that offers safe routes to the visually impaired.
For this purpose, the designers from the Kneidinger and Stögmüller firm of architects chose a tactile floor guidance system based on porcelain tiles produced by Marazzi Tecnica and named «Autonomy». The system was designed through cooperation between Marazzi and Studio & Partners and with the active contribution of associations of the blind and some of their members. For this project the designers chose Autonomy 02, developed with the association Freiraum-Europe to meet the stringent legislation in force in Austria. The tiles have relief signs on their surface and form a network of routes that guide the visually impaired after they have entered the large foyer and lead them safely towards utilities such as desks, doors, lifts and multimedia devices. The two basic signs (forward: parallel lines; stop: squares) are consist with those used throughout Europe and are repeated in the pedestrian areas on every floor of the building.
A large multi-level monolith with an elegant elliptical floor plan, the tower is a kind of urban-scale technological object built prevalently from aluminium and glass. This makes the complex highly communicative, a landmark with a strong identity and therefore also an important reference point for orientation in a small city of about a hundred and ninety thousand inhabitants.
The building contains various spaces, all devoted to the dissemination of knowledge, both traditional and based on new multimedia technologies.
The services available to users in the Wissensturm complex are distributed according to a layout that includes a Service Center, an Info-Point, a bar and a large exhibition space for temporary exhibits and events associated with the city’s culture. But of course the heart of the complex is the extremely well stocked library, which houses more than seventy thousand volumes, a newspaper and periodical library containing thirty-five thousand periodicals, two hundred daily newspapers and a multimedia centre. Due to the aluminium and glass roof, the top floor of the tower allows for natural lighting in some of the spaces, thereby helping to reduce the energy requirements deriving from electrical energy consumption.
In accordance with the most stringent legislation for safety of the public in the tower, special devices have been provided to ensure a high degree of safety in the event of fire. If a fire is detected, sophisticated mechanisms capable of automatically closing the fire doors are triggered, creating a high atmospheric pressure difference capable of preventing the flow of smoke and heat inside the rooms in the tower.