When Snøhetta was approached to design a flexible fabrication space for crystal manufacturer Swarovski in Wattens, Austria, the intent was to design a light, airy space that didn’t directly reference the physical geometry of crystals. The complex opened on October 24, 2018, but Snøhetta has released a new suite of photos that explore the cavernous space.

The Swarovski Manufaktur is an all-in-one workshop that brings design offices, rapid prototyping capabilities, and a presentation space under one roof. The 81,000-square-foot, three-story building (one floor is below ground) displays the experimental design process and allows clients to conceptualize, fabricate, and display small-batch product lines before realizing them on an industrial scale. A 45-foot-tall “chandelier hole,” as Snøhetta’s coined it, extends from the first floor into the basement, allowing for truly massive prototypes to be put on display.

Manufaktur’s defining feature is its 14,000-square-foot ceiling that floods the interior with natural light. A deeply-coffered ceiling is made of 135 “cassettes,” 20-foot-long-by-10-foot-wide steel window bays. Each cassette has been clad in acoustic paneling, and Snøhetta claims that the height of the ceiling, which ranges from 27 to 45 feet, combined with the paneling, makes conversations audible despite the sounds of active machinery.

Photo of Swarovski Manufaktur

A communal staircase creates a public gathering space on the main floor and provides passage up to the offices and conference rooms. (David Schreyer)

The material palette was kept cheerful, with white walls and light birch panels used for the flooring and the cladding of the “sculptural” platform that holds the second floor. Glass-walled offices, presentation spaces, and conference rooms have been arranged on the platform, and they look out over the main floor and central staircase.

“We tried not to interpret the physical properties of crystals in our building geometry,” said Patrick Lüth, managing director of Snøhetta’s Innsbruck, Austria, office. “Instead, we have tried to understand what makes crystal so special and attractive, and to use these ephemeral qualities to create a specific atmosphere. The space has an incredible amount of daylight penetration, which we believe is unparalleled in the typical production facility context. Crystals only come to life with light, so for us, it is the intense presence of that daylight that is the most important aesthetic aspect of this building.”

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