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Post-event report | Stuttgart - Florian Nagler: Less is more!

Building simply – and still architecturally ambitious

Building simply – that is the core issue of Florian Nagler, professor for Design and Construction at the Technical University of Munich and owner of Florian Nagler Architekten. On 10 November, he was the guest speaker on the second evening of the November Talks in Stuttgart. This year's event series has the motto "Building without concrete".

Florian Nagler is all about simplified construction across the board – including restrained complexity and reduced technical equipment. A building is supposed to be simple, beautiful and useful. Buildings whose complexity and sensitivity overburden the architects, the construction companies and, finally, the owners in their daily use are not his thing. "High-tech buildings often don't take user behaviour into account", Nagler pointed out. In 2016, the Royal Institute for British Architecture conducted a study showing that 95 percent of all school buildings in Europe do not work as anticipated. There is a performance gap between the design of a building and how it is operated in reality. "Because the building user often does not behave as calculated in the planning model", Nagler explains. "The more complex a system is, and the higher its technical standard, the wider this gap becomes".

Florian Nagler makes the case for reducing construction to the basics. Not least because of his own upbringing in a "town between Munich and Bad Tölz", Nagler says. "The region and the construction there have shaped me". Nagler is a trained carpenter and built small barns during his studies. "The first was made of old fir wood, which had been stored for decades", the architect reminisces about this practical example which illustrates that circular, resource-preserving construction has always been around. One of his first building projects that dealt with a reduction to the basics was a job for the artist Peter Land, with whom he was friends – the construction of a mobile travel studio.

Research houses in Bad Aibling: simple, robust and astonishing

Ultimately, the construction of the secondary school in Diedorf was the event that got him to rethink things: "Building has to be easier and done with less". Because the ventilation and heating technology of the energy plus building – whose wooden construction was a great success from a design perspective – was so complex that a practical operation of the school building would only be possible with great effort.

Therefore, Nagler's research project "Building simply", which he has initiated at TU Munich, deals with a culture of simplification that is intended to support a sea change in construction. "What is an ideal living space? How can it be optimally configured? What are suitable room heights and window sizes? What is the ideal glazing"? On the basis of an assumed room size of 18 square metres and using the material variants of wood, steel-free insulating concrete and brickwork, the project looked at a total of 2,605 individual room simulations and compared them based on energy consumption, temperature and light values. "The three metre wide, six metre deep and 3.3 m high room works best with an appropriately sized window. These are the values of a typical old building that we are familiar with" Nagler concluded. With the real estate company B&O in Bad Aibling as owner, Florian Nagler was able to construct three "research houses" – one made of wood, one made of concrete and one made of brickwork – all with the same dimensions. These apartment buildings were designed and built to be as simple as possible without multi-layer wall systems or foreign elements. All installations are arranged compactly and the building equipment is reduced. The use of mono materials ensured that they could be optimally recycled later. The architectural and design aspects were not neglected: Differently sized round-arched windows in the concrete and brickwork buildings, as well as horizontal supports in the wooden house, provide the facades with variety and vitality. "These are modest, restrained and robust-seeming rooms with high ceilings that astonish their visitors", says Nagler. The construction is currently following by measuring, analysing, validating and providing feedback on various data and parameters – comfort, window contacts, consumption, humidity values, temperatures and component measurements. The research results are expected to be available in 2022.

Contemporary construction implemented functionally

The insights gained so far were incorporated into Nagler's most recent projects – such as a residential building in Mitterfischen (2019) and the planned office building for Florian Nagler Architekten. "There is no cladding. Everything you see is a load-bearing structure". Another – and especially impressive – example of building without concrete is the reconstruction of St. Martha in Nuremberg (2018): The church, which burned down when it was renovated in 2014, was originally built in 1363. Florian Nagler Architekten gave it a new roof construction that relies entirely on screws and dowels without any use.

In a "manifesto", Florian Nagler has summarised his demands for contemporary building: Reducing the space used for any urban and rural construction projects; use of existing buildings as spatial and material resources; use of materials that consume as little embodied energy as possible, are easy to recycle or can be returned to the cycle of nature; construction of buildings whose operation consumes as little energy as possible; development of durable and robust buildings that are easy to use.

Kyra Bullert, a research assistant of IRGE – the Institute for Spatial Conception and Fundamentals of Design – moderated the event and referred to the upcoming lectures in Stuttgart, the series' original location, on 17 and 24 November, as well as additional November Talks in Paris, Prague, Venice, Vienna and London. The next lecture in Stuttgart will feature Roger Boltshauser of Zurich-based Boltshauser Architekten.

The follow-up reports, also from the other locations, will also be made available to you gradually. You will then find these data under the following link.

You can find all dates of this year's November Talks on our website The website also contains brief video clips of interviews with the speakers.