Northern coast of Heligoland, Germany
In 1919 Erich Mendelsohn designed the Einstein Tower, which served as a precedent for this project. The Einsteinturm is a solar observatory located in Potsdam, Germany and is recognized as one of the few built landmarks of the expressionist movement. Solar light is collected and focused down the height of the tower, and is redirected and split into its component parts for study underground. Einstein famously toured the finished building with Mendelsohn after its completion, but said nothing. When implored later to share his thoughts with the architect, Einstein remarked only that the building was most definitely “organic.”
The design of the Heisenbergturm began as a sister observatory to the Einsteinturm and evolved into a place of study for Heisenberg himself. The tower is sited on a small island off the northern coast of Germany called Heligoland. Werner Heisenberg would occasionally take a holiday to the island. In 1925, suffering a sudden attack of Hay Fever, Heisenberg sought refuge on Heligoland. It was during this stay that he successfully conceived the mathematical basis for quantum theory.
The Heisenbergturm is located off the northern edge of the island just over the edge of the high cliff face. A pathway marked by massive orthostates breaks up the view out to the ocean and gives the impression of descending into the earth. An elevator provides access to the main floor below—a large, open space filled with natural light by a long ribbon window facing to the sea. To the left, a personal study. A circular void struck with columns of technical equipment marks the presence of the lower level, where the bulk of the facility’s hardware is situated. Around the profile winds a thin spiral stair, providing access down, or up to the observation dome.
On the main level, a walkway provides Heisenberg with an exit—tracing along the cliff and down to the southeast where a hill spills over onto the beach. This walk eventually leads to the town at the southern end of the island. He, along with Einstein and Niels Bohr, became famous for the habit of taking long walks to talk out their research or simply to clear their heads.
The north elevation drawing of the Heisenbergturm was destroyed.
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