I can’t separate one aspect of my life from any other: the one informs the other,” the star architect goes on. “So yes, I see analogies between cross-country skiing or riding a bike, and how you can capture a view with a room – the links with nature. When I started professionally as an architect, I passionately believed that if you had a shaft of sunlight, if you had a view, then you were going to be happier. The difference now is that it has been scientifically proven. So statistically, if you’ve had surgery in a hospital, and your bedroom has a view, you will leave that hospital earlier. You will recover faster than somebody with a room that might look onto a blank wall, for example.” – Norman Foster

Multimedia centre, Hamburg by Foster + Partners - Sheet1
Sir Norman Foster, architect at the head quarters of Foster AND Partners in Battersea, London 20th October 2005_©Photo by Martin Godwin

And this belief underlies all of Foster and Partner’s buildings. This article briefs how he has attempted to implement the same in The Multimedia Centre in Hamburg, Germany – caring for the users in this multi-programmed building yet catering to its different users ably. 

Zoning of the functions

Multimedia centre, Hamburg by Foster + Partners - Sheet2
Multimedia Centre entrance_©httpswww.fosterandpartners.comprojectsmultimedia-centre

This six-storeyed steel and glass-covered building was planned to be rented out to offices and studios of mixed media companies at five levels. A linear array of retail shops facing the street mark the frontage of the Multimedia Centre on the ground floor. While such commercial activities are planned in the north, the southern side of the centre provides housing for elderly people. The existing media centre is connected to the newly constructed office block through a three-storey high space which provides a platform for sensational reports and other buzzing media-related activities (Media Circus)

Focus and the Nodal points of the Centre

Multimedia centre, Hamburg by Foster + Partners - Sheet3
Cross section of the Centre showing the 3 storied Media circus+ Atrium+Staircase_©httpswww.fosterandpartners.comprojectsmultimedia-centre

 The central atrium which runs along the length of the block and is eight 

metres in width becomes the focal point for the offices at the five levels. This atrium is accessed by a large staircase which facilitates interaction between the users across the different floor levels.

The staircase acts as a nodal point concerning circulation. It also doubles up as a central meeting place below the well-lit louvred roof. This single bold and broad staircase shall act as a break-out space for the creative minds working within enclosed spaces- the media personnel working at the centre. The atrium and the media circus are covered by a louvred roof which culminates at the main entrance forming a steel canopy. Exterior lighting is taken care of by the steel beam supporting this louvred roof structure.

Multimedia centre, Hamburg by Foster + Partners - Sheet4
Staircase connecting different levels_©httpswww.fosterandpartners.comprojectsmultimedia-centre (1)
Multimedia centre, Hamburg by Foster + Partners - Sheet5

Sustainable measures

Multimedia centre, Hamburg by Foster + Partners - Sheet6
Office spaces overlooking the central atrium_©httpswww.fosterandpartners.comprojectsmultimedia-centre

While the offices lining the exterior are naturally ventilated, the ones facing the atrium are ventilated with displacement air through floor outlets.

Adjustable glass louvres_©httpswww.fosterandpartners.comprojectsmultimedia-centre  (1)

Air ducts are integrated within the raised floor to use the relatively clean air from the offices to heat and ventilate the central atrium. This eliminates the need to have suspended or false ceilings which gives the office space a spacious ceiling height of three metres. Additionally having such floor integrated service system adds to the inherent mass of the concrete slabs aiding in the passive temperature control of the building.

A cantilevered louvred roof provides passive solar protection for the atrium, the Media Circus and the upper levels. The west facade of the office building is protected against solar gain by adjustable glass louvres, operated individually for each office unit. This allows the use of clear glazing, which avoids colour distortions for the media work. The louvres form a second skin, creating a constantly changing pattern across the façade.

Adjustable glass louvres avoid the ingress of harsh western sun’s radiation onto the façade. These can be individually operated from each office unit. Clear glazing is used for the glass louvers and this is critical to the media business in the fact that colour distortions are not encouraged. The inner office spaces, central atrium and the three-storeyed Media Circus are shaded by the cantilevered louvred roof.

  Flexibility and functionality are the two paramount factors taken into consideration while planning the AC lines. The room layout with well-planned services offers flexible and optimal use of the space without major conversions or interventions. This factor is important considering there would be a change of tenants and consequently a change of layouts according to their needs. All rooms have been provided with chilled ceiling surfaces each with a dew point control. The temperature and humidity in each room can be seen/recorded individually with the help of room sensors. These sensors are equipped with solar cells which supply internal energy storage. The integrated set point adjuster enables any of the users to determine the room temperature themselves.


Lewis, T. (2022) Lord Norman Foster: ‘I still get the same buzz from designing buildings’, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2022/apr/03/lord-norman-foster-i-still-get-the-same-buzz-from-designing-buildings- (Accessed: 29 July 2023). 

Partners, F. (1998) Projects/Multimedia Centre, Foster+Partners. Available at: https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/multimedia-centre (Accessed: 29 July 2023). 

J A N F E B M Ä R 2 0 0 6 07 E N A B L E D B Y E N O C E A N ® Multimedia Center Hamburg Einsatz des Funk-Sensor-Systems EasySens ® V E R N E T Z T Mit Funkbedienung in der Pole Position – Konzepte dezentraler Raumautomation im Vergleich V I S I O N Ä R Gateways für Funknetze – ein notwendiger Luxus? E N A B L E D B Y E N O C E A N ® perpetuum. (2006). Available at: https://perpetuum.enocean.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/perpetuum_07_2006_DE.pdf [Accessed 29 Jul. 2023].


Arthi is a passionate architect with 12 years of professional experience heading Studio AJ Architects in Coimbatore. She is an avid learner and a curious observer of all things that intrigues and resonates with her on design, philosophy and spirituality. To know more about what she writes click here