MVRDV has won a competition to develop the Heilbronn Innovation Park Artificial Intelligence (Ipai). A combination of business campus, laboratories, start-up innovation center, housing, communication center and facilities such as restaurant and kindergarten make the campus not only an attractive place to work, but also a destination for curious visitors to experience the development of world-changing technologies first-hand Hand, interact with the people behind their development and learn about the intentions behind their work. The design intends to promote the campus as a world-leading place for the development of AI technologies through its recognizable circular plan.
The concept was created for a consortium led by the City of Heilbronn and the Dieter Schwarz Foundation. MVRDV’s design requires a dramatic, recognizable gesture to compete with world-renowned IT centers from Silicon Valley to Shenzhen. The decision to include the master plan buildings in a circle will make the Ipai campus instantly identifiable and will act as a branding strategy that enhances its image worldwide – even visible on satellite imagery.
The majority of the structures have simple rectangular shapes and regular heights of 27 meters, making them easy to build using 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 shapes, and taller towers that define the university skyline. The most visible of these is the communications center, a circular tower in the plan’s central square that serves as a contact point for the public to interact with the work of the campus, with space for events, exhibitions, conferences, a visitor center and a training center.
“The developments we have seen in the field of AI lately require the attention of people from all walks of life, and with this design we are creating a compact campus for that,” says MVRDV founding partner Jacob van Rijs. “The distinctive shape of the campus can help put it on an international stage and attract world-class talent. The welcoming and appealing vibe, even the recognizable look make this place a destination for people to engage with the future of this technology.”
“Innovation needs space – space for networking, cooperation and creativity,” says Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Minister for Economic Affairs, Labor and Tourism in Baden-Württemberg. “I am deeply impressed by how spectacularly the architects have implemented this vision. The Artificial Intelligence Innovation Park will make a decisive contribution so that Baden-Württemberg can play a leading role worldwide in the commercialization of ethically responsible AI.”
The compact design of the campus leaves a large part of the entire site open to LOLA parametric landscaping to enhance the existing natural features of this site. This will transform a part of Heilbronn that is currently grassland into forests, orchards and meadows, which will serve as test areas for biodiversity and agriculture-related AI technology. These natural design components contribute significantly to the amount of carbon stored as part of the overall master plan and reduce the campus carbon footprint.