Maintenance depot Stuag Bienne

In a study commission, a kind of typological architecture was sought for the maintenance depot of a major construction firm specializing in civil engineering and highway construction. The design should be able to adapt to various sizes, programs, and locations throughout all of Switzerland.

Maintenance depots are more protected storage areas for materials than architectural structures. The stack of construction materials and the parking spaces for large construction machines are, for their part, something similar to temporary architectonic topographies that are constantly piled up, carried away, and moved. Such locations are usually close to highways, on level industrial sites in the outskirts or the nondescript land leading into a town.


The materials, either spread out or stacked in a pile, lent a motif to the design. Since the landscapes of maintenance depots are usually blocked by sheds, fences, or bushes, we made the silhouette its distinctive sign: this is a line that can be seen from far and wide. For that reason, we reversed the conventional logic of a shelter: the longitudinal beams are set above and the roof is hung on them. With their sculptural presence, the powerful naked beams—prefabricated, prestressed, and oversized as box girders—recall the crane runways of a production plant.

The large free span of this system allows the transport vehicles to move more freely around the warehouse. To avoid any similarity with common warehouses, the walls of the repository are formed from dense, sculpted shrubs, which serve well to keep the rain off of the stored items. The small service building is, for its part, set down like a container under the roof. Its façade is covered with locally recycled materials: bits of refuse from sawn stone slabs, chips of fiber cement panels, wood scraps. Nothing should ennoble the site to architecture; it is meant to remain precarious and changeable. 

In order to test the sculptural effect of the load-bearing structural skeleton, we took photos in potential no-where-lands of Switzerland. By using reverse projection, we shifted the wooden model as a silhouette under various angles behind silos, over bushes next to highways, and in front of hapless cubes of industrial landscapes. In later projects we developed this research method further.

Location: Bienne

Competition: 1988–1989

Client: Stuag AG, Bern

Meili, Peter Architekten: Marcel Meili, Markus Peter

Frank Zierau


«Einzelgebäude oder Einheitsgebäude»

Hochparterre, Nr. 10/1989

Site plan, location Bienne

upper floor with material warehouse, service building, and vehicle space, type Bienne

Cantilever beam structure and roof element montage

Façade of the works container with stone strip facing made from waste cuttings and chrome steel ties as holding device (airbrush)

Industrial crane runway in Schweizer Mittelland

Model studies in various landscapes (backward projection)

Model studies for small types, model study for roof structure