The Siemens name is associated not just with top-notch technological achievements, but also with striking administrative buildings and imposing factory facilities. Buildings like the Schaltwerk high-rise in Berlin, the “Raspberry Palace” in Erlangen, the Siemens Center in Beijing, and the new corporate headquarters in Munich serve as an expression of the company’s growth and continuous evolution since its founding in 1847. Its architecture reflects not only the company’s own values, culture and view of itself, but the formal aesthetics of the era. What’s more, these are buildings that always set standards for functionality and cost-effectiveness.
How it all started – New uses for existing buildings in Berlin
“Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske” – the “Telegraph Construction Company of Siemens & Halske” – began operations on October 12, 1847, in a Berlin apartment house. The workshop, measuring 150 square meters (a bit more than 1600 square feet) was located in the rear building at Schöneberger Strasse 19, directly opposite the Anhalter Bahnhof railroad station. The company’s two founders, Werner von Siemens and Johann Georg Halske, lived in the same building. The company originally had ten employees. But work soon exceeded what the first workshop could hold; in 1852 Siemens relocated to a space nearby, at Markgrafenstrasse 94.
The year before, the firm had bought a lot there that had a four-story apartment house, which now it had remodeled. Over the next few decades, acquisitions of adjoining properties yielded a dense complex of production facilities, made up of several apartment houses that had been refashioned into production space, together with a factory building.
After 1890, manufacturing operations in the original Markgrafenstrasse factory – which became known as "Berliner Werk" (Berlin plant) – were focused on telegraphs, telephones, fire alarm systems, measurement instruments, and other communications engineering products,
Greenfield expansion – Siemensstadt rises from a “wilderness on the outskirts of Berlin”
By the end of the 19th century, the fast-growing company could no longer find enough space within Berlin’s city limits. Management cast about for new ground. A site on the Nonnenwiesen, an outlying area north of the Spree between Charlottenburg and Spandau, would now become the company’s core location. In 1897, the deal closed: the company gradually bought more than 200 hectares (about 500 acres) of land to build on.
Siemens architects Karl Janisch and Hans Hertlein gradually developed this area into a contemporary industrial campus that left nothing to be desired – including transportation infrastructure, social facilities and available housing. At the start of 1914 the area was officially named “Siemensstadt.” By the 1930s, construction had largely finished, and the site had become known far beyond Berlin as a symbol of the most up-to-date working environments.
Following World War II – Continuity and change
World War II destroyed four-fifth of the company’s assets. The political situation in postwar Berlin was precarious. Faced with the threat of German partition, as of April 1, 1949, Siemens management decided to relocated the corporate headquarters of Siemens & Halske AG to Munich and those of Siemens-Schuckertwerke AG to Erlangen. Berlin would remain a second headquarters for both companies. Hans Hertlein now raised buildings in southern Germany, thus providing a link between the new locations and the company’s original site in Berlin. The man who had shaped the Siemens “look,” both in Germany and abroad, for more than 35 years retired in 1951. He was succeeded by Munich architect Hans Maurer, who would serve as a planner and advisor to the company until 1983.
The public’s opinion of us – how they judge and appraise us – also depends to a great extent on the design of our buildings. […] We should always be careful that our buildings’ architecture is not just imposing, but also appealing.Ernst von Siemens, 1969
Concentration and globalization – The recognition factor and clear design principles
All construction projects, both in Germany and abroad, were coordinated by the Corporate Construction Department that had grown up in Munich and Erlangen. Various architects were engaged on a project-by-project basis. In the early 1990s, the formal vocabulary of Siemens buildings was reinvigorated as an expression of the brand and corporate identity. Eye-catching buildings with clear design principles were the result.
In the spring of 1996, a few months before Siemens celebrated its 100th anniversary in South Africa, Siemens Ltd. moved into its new headquarters building. The building complex on the highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria was inspired by the formal vocabulary of American architect Richard Meier. Construction began in 1994 in collaboration with the South African architectural firm Louw, Apostolellis, Bergenthuin.
Both the functional and architectural focus of the clearly organized layout is a round, six-story building with a façade of square, white aluminum panels. The investment in the Siemens Park in Midrand demonstrated the company’s confidence in South Africa’s political stability and economic development after the end of apartheid. The building complex received the South African Institute of Architects’ SAIA Award of Merit in 1997.
At the end of the 1990s, corporate headquarters in Munich were expanded with a building known as the SiemensForum, at Oskar-von-Miller-Ring 20. The complex filled in one of the last spaces that the war’s destruction lad left bare in downtown Munich.
The office building’s history began back in 1983, when famed New York architect Richard Meier won a competition. But the project was postponed in favor of work on an office and laboratory building on Hofmannstrasse, so that detailed planning did not begin until 1991.
In collaboration between the Siemens Immobilien Management unit (now Siemens Real Estate), founded in 1994, and leading Siemens architect Gunter R. Standke, an office building centering around two interior courtyards began rising in 1997. It had room for some 1,000 employees. The first offices were ready for occupancy in June 1999; in September, the new SiemensForum was inaugurated as a platform for dialog with customers and the general public.
Siemens architecture for the 21st century – Innovative and sustainable
In the new millennium, the company’s architectural and planning work was managed by Siemens Real Estate. Showcase projects for forward-looking, innovative, sustainable buildings were carried out worldwide, highlighting Siemens’ capabilities as a technology company. Corporate Architecture ensured that the company’s buildings could be recognized across the limits of space and time.
In September 2008, Siemens China opened the cutting-edge, environmentally-friendly Siemens Center Beijing (SCB). The 30-story office tower, which covers an area of 17,500 square meters, houses the headquarters of Siemens China Ltd. Smart building technology from Siemens, reduces energy consumption by about a third from comparable Chinese office buildings.
The tower also includes the Siemens Beijing Data Center. Equipped with a tailored fire safety and security solution from Siemens, it is the company’s largest and most advanced data center in Asia. In April 2010, it was given the “New Generation Data Center Award 2009”, based on the criteria: “Green Energy”, “Security, Stability, and Availability.”