Project Spotlight

Innocad Merges Biophilic Design and Sustainability at a Research Lab in Austria

At MAM’s research and development facility, the wellbeing of employees is as paramount as the infant care products they manufacture.

All photography by Paul Ott.

As a global leader in the creation of infant care products, MAM and its employees bear a great responsibility. For their new product design offices, laboratory, and prototyping workshop in Austria, called the MAM Competence Center, the company worked with architecture firm Innocad to build a facility with a footprint inspired by cellular biology and interiors anchored in biophilic design. 

“Implementing biophilic design strategies in the built environment, especially in workspaces, is ever more important as they ‘reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve health and wellbeing, and expedite healing,’” says Innocad CEO, co-founder, and design director Martin Lesjak, referencing “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design” a scientific study on the impact of the nature-inspired approach on wellbeing, commissioned and published by environmental consultant Terrapin Bright Green. 

The study’s findings were just a starting point for the Innocad team, who thought about details as granular as whether the floor coverings could contribute to the overall calming effect of the workplace. The answer, as developed by product design studio 13&9 and Dr. Richard Taylor, chair of the physics department at University of Oregon in partnership with Mohawk Group, was a resounding yes. Then again, a go on the bi-level, playground-style slide between the two levels of the green atriums might also help workers decompress.

Abundant natural light, along with greenery and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape permeate the office and development facility in Großhöflein, Austria. Below, Lesjak shares how the commonalities between MAM and Innocad created the ultimate design laboratory.

Project Description: The MAM Competence Center is a holistic project that summarizes INNOCAD’s and our partner product design studio 13&9’s humanistic design approach: the awareness and the knowledge to foster people’s wellbeing along with their psychological, physiological, cognitive, and social needs flowed into the design process.

From an urban planning perspective, the building’s three interlocked sections respond to the terrain and gently blend into the undulating landscape. With the movable facade’s bronze shimmering aluminum lamellae (or membrane) and the green roofs, the MAM research and development center becomes part of the landscape.

Project Inspiration: Since MAM is similar to a growing organism, its new competence center resembles one as well, with the intention of developing over the years and responding to increasing spatial needs. The building’s concept reflects this complex scope of consistent growth inspired by the principle of cellular division. The result is an organic, growing building in which the respective building sections flow seamlessly into each other.

This project unifies the team’s trans-disciplinary work: years of research and analysis with experts focusing on holistic humanistic approach to design. The result is a building with a democratic concept, which offers all users the same spatial quality, daylight, and connection to nature no matter where one is in the headquarters. Based on science-informed biophilic design strategies in the study “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design” published by Terrapin Bright Green, the architectural design forms dynamic and diffused light as well as optimized acoustics in an organic work environment.

Project Blueprint: Through the core of each building is a two-story atrium with a greenhouse-like roof that offers employees a hybrid between inside and outside. Despite the building’s depth, this weather-protected area allows natural light access from within and acts as a spatial link between floors. The building’s central functions are arranged around this indoor garden, followed by collaborative zones, which offer open communication and temporary work areas. Alongside the facade are work desks and rooms for retreating and focused working, with a single access ring of circulation connecting all zones. Thus, the building embodies a highly efficient system in terms of volume and movement.

Project Uniqueness: The building’s circular geometry and interlinked levels form a dynamic loop weaving throughout all levels, connecting people from different disciplines while fostering interaction as well as physical activity and cognitive diversion. The layout reveals that the distances have been adapted to the human scale, corresponding with its inner guidance system and circular shape to embrace a natural mobility flow. The meandering structure is based on the human urge for a spatial balance between clarity and generosity as well as retreat and security.

Manifold biophilic interventions throughout the office’s interior promote health and wellbeing, which can be seen in the flooring’s science-based fractal patterns that induce stress-reducing effects or the outdoor workspace on the rooftop endorsing further connectivity with nature.

Project Uniqueness: The team answered the project’s challenges with a holistic design strategy that forges a stimulating, innovative built identity, conveying the brand’s values and positively impacting human wellbeing. It is also built with a focus on ecological balance. Therefore, the headquarters’ entire demand for energy, needed for heating and cooling, is fulfilled by renewable energy, and the small surface area and large volume of its compact cylindrical shape contributes to its efficiency. The sensor-controlled lamellae facade automatically reacts to the sun’s positioning, minimizing heat in summer, and the floor to ceiling-glazing stores solar energy gains in winter. 

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