MVRDV has won a competition to develop Heilbronn’s Innovation Park Artificial Intelligence (Ipai). A combination of a business campus, laboratories, a start-up innovation center, housing, a communication center, and amenities such as a restaurant and kindergarten transform the campus into not only an appealing place to work, but also a destination for curious visitors to see the development of world-changing technologies firsthand, interact with the people behind their creation, and learn about the intentions behind their work. The design intends to promote the campus as a world-leading venue for the development of AI technologies through its recognizable circular plan.
The concept was created for a consortium led by the Heilbronn municipality and the Dieter Schwarz Foundation. MVRDV’s design requires a dramatic, recognizable gesture in order to compete with world-renowned IT centers from Silicon Valley to Shenzhen. The decision to inscribe the masterplan’s buildings in a circle will make the Ipai Campus instantly identifiable, functioning as a branding strategy that enhances its image globally – even visible in satellite pictures.
The majority of the structures have simple rectangular shapes and regular heights of 27 meters, making them easy to build with modular grids and bio-based materials. A handful of “specials” stand out from the crowd at the center of the plan, with unique typologies, iconic forms, and higher towers defining the university skyline. The most visible of these is the communications center, a round tower in the plan’s central plaza that serves as a point of contact for the public to interact with the campus’s work, with space for events, exhibitions, conferences, a visitor center, and a training center.
“The developments we have seen recently in the field of AI demand the attention of people from all walks of life, and with this design, we create a compact campus for this to happen”, says MVRDV founding partner Jacob van Rijs. “The striking form of the campus can help to propel it to an international stage, attracting world-class talent. Meanwhile, the welcoming and engaging atmosphere, even the recognizable appearance, make this place a destination where people can engage in the future of this technology.”
“Innovation needs space – space for networking, cooperation, and creativity”, says Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Labour, and Tourism of Baden-Württemberg. “I am deeply impressed by how spectacularly the architects have implemented this vision. The Innovation Park Artificial Intelligence will make a decisive contribution so that Baden-Württemberg can play a leading role worldwide in the commercialization of ethically responsible AI.”
The campus’s compact design leaves a major amount of the overall site open for a parametric landscape design by LOLA to enhance this location’s existing natural characteristics. As a result, a section of Heilbronn that is currently grassland will be transformed into forests, orchards, and meadows that will serve as test beds for biodiversity- and agriculture-related AI technology. These natural design components contribute significantly to the amount of carbon stored as part of the overall masterplan, lowering the campus’s carbon footprint.