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Harbour Fire-Brigade, Duisburg

Part 2 Project 2002
Stefan Matthys
Jonathan Thompson
Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen Aachen Germany
Present Situation
The inland port area of the Ruhrgebiet is the transport network of the most extended industrial conglomeration in central Europe (5000 square kilometres). The existing harbour fire station of the city of Duisburg is responsible for the entire waterway network, including a fire engine for land operations. The most important site-challenge is the quay with an average difference in height of 9.5 m and 38° slope. The water level changes permanently, but not regularly.

Programme
The equipment is supposed to meet numerous new tasks of the fire station. The following points have to be reconsidered, respectively created:
A lecture room, a lounge, a kitchen, accommodation for four firemen, a workshop, a gym, and a kitchen garden (the firemen prepare their meals all by themselves). Two garages are required for a hook-and-ladder truck and the existing fire engine. The two fireboats get a weatherproof swim-dock. Due to the variable water level, an automatic height-adaptation of the stairs and the lift to the dock is necessary. The boat-hall is an extremely light and auto-stable construction, comparable to the airship by Schütte-Lanz (1911). Four partially evacuated reservoirs and a Citroën DS hydropneumatique keep the dock horizontal and at the right height according to the charges produced by the moving fireboats.
For the fire-chief and police helicopter, a helideck has to be integrated on top of the building. Fire-fighting missions can be carried out by air: a catapult-launched fire-aircraft Canadair CL 215 being accelerated by a Heinkel K3 situated on top, since it takes up to two fatal hours to get to the operational area by fire-boat.

More is more
Since the very beginning of the modernist movement, architects have been in a dilemma of Ornament and Crime. The solution has frequently been searched for in the unquestioned and unquestionable formula of “less is more”. The actual goal of this project is being free to invert this idea diametrally and being curious about the result.
The omnium-gatherum of technical solutions was the approach for an aesthetic experiment, negating any will to minimal art, making it actually live as a consequence, and leading nevertheless to one coherent object: the „fire-extinguishing machine“.

It becomes part of the non-design mobile engine pool of the habour site.
In order to avoid a demolition whenever it comes out that changing the site is necessary in a perpetually developing harbour area, my suggestion is completely prefabricated, decomposable and transferable. Moving and removing becomes possible without expensive demolition and any major ecological damage. The assembly takes place in a dockyard, the delivery by crane ship. The assembly principle is taken from offshore construction.

Stefan Matthys
Jonathan Thompson


The design concept features a vertical volume assembled from prefabricated modules. Its steel construction pays formal and technological tribute to offshore platform technology.

Within the field of submitted projects the authors proposal maintains an exceptional position. Drawing from the reservoir of maritime construction the author intentionally creates an application of existing technology within a new context. Only where the specific demands of the task could not be fulfilled with off-the-shelf technology he adds his own inventions to the project.

Bypassing the realistic nature of the brief, he creates an array of unorthodox and innovative technological solutions (for instance the cylindrical boat house, based on the principle of the hub less spoke wheel). The author confronts the audience with a provocative conglomerate of ideas; the functional limits of the brief are exceedingly stretched. In this project technology is turned into semantics, which forces the recipient to reflect upon the apparent misinterpretation of issue. This overdose orchestrates an exhilarating journey into the world of technology.

2002
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