saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering

Digital Collection Egon Eiermann

Buildings DEA-Scholven GmbH refinery


Buildings DEA-Scholven GmbH refinery

Although Egon Eiermann taught and practiced in Karlsruhe for no less than twenty-three years, he was able to build only two projects there; what is more, these buildings or complexes of buildings are hardly known, due to their function and their remote location on the city's periphery. The first was an experimental power plant on the university campus, built in the first half of the fifties, and the second involved a number of functional buildings for the former DEA-Scholven GmbH now MiRO–the largest German refinery for mineral oil. Largely inaccessible for safety reasons, these buildings are located on the extensive refinery site on the Rhine River northwest of Knielingen.

The project comprises some twenty-two structures, including a gatehouse, a cafeteria, a building with employees' amenities, warehouses, and laboratories, a fire station, and a number of monitoring stations. The largest structure is the three-story office building that is located on the main access road outside the restricted area and therefore more visible to visitors, although they may not enter.

The commission, entrusted to Eiermann after a limited competition, involved a difficult task, calling for the construction of a wide range of different and variable types of buildings on a limited budget. In addition, the time schedule for planning and execution was extremely tight. Eiermann's solution to this complex problem was characteristic of the spirit of the early sixties, and involved extensive rationalization and standardization. All buildings were constructed on the basis of a grid system, which gave them a unified appearance in spite of strong differences. The external elements of the load-bearing steel skeleton with diagonal wind bracing are openly visible, and the façades were completed with prefabricated wooden elements, all of which are the same size with differing configurations. Honeycombed trusses whose openings permit easy installation of services support the prefabricated ceiling slabs of reinforced concrete. Box-shaped HVAC units are mounted on the flat roofs. Special facilities that could not be integrated into the structure were housed in self-contained additions.

Even though the main emphasis was on functionality, Eiermann was also concerned with the formal design aspects. The balanced proportions, the careful detailing, and the consistent color scheme can be seen as evidence of his quest to accomplish perfection in design. His manifest attempt to integrate the appearance of both architecture and technology initiated repeated controversial debates with the clients. The latter not only objected to the all too factory-like appearance of the office building with its diagonal bracings in the façades, they also blocked the architect's request to go beyond the actual brief and develop a color scheme for the huge technical facilities of the refinery as well.

In 1996 the DEA refinery and the neighboring Esso AG merged to form the company known today as MiRO. When the new centralized administration moved into office buildings on the former Esso grounds, the Eiermann building no langer served a useful purpose. Although listed, the structure has been standing empty for some time now, and a demolition permit has even been applied for. Due to the lack of maintenance the building is considered to be in severe jeopardy.

Gerhard Kabierske

"Egon Eiermann 1904-1970. Architect and Designer", Ed. Annemarie Jaeggi, Hatje Cantz: Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 199

Project-specific information

Project Buildings DEA-Scholven GmbH refinery
Persons involved
  • DEA-Scholven GmbH, Bauherr*in
  • Egon Eiermann und Robert Hilgers, Architektur
Project period 1961-1963

Object-specific information

Typology Industriekomplex, industrial complexes

Site-specific information

Country Deutschland
City Karlsruhe