A sustainable restaurant for a sustainable company

The headquarters of the Alnatura organic supermarket chain are located in Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt. And the office building – like the rest of the company – is anything but ordinary. This also applies – naturally – to the building’s restaurant.

In this interview, the interior designer Lena Götze from haas cook zemmrich STUDIO 2050 talks about the ideas behind the restaurant design.

On the face of it, it might sound slightly strange to work in a building made of earth. However, the 420+ employees at Alnatura’s headquarters in the German city of Darmstadt can testify to the fact that rammed earth is particularly suitable as a building material. The 55,000-square-foot office building, Alnatura Arbeitswelt, features a clay facade with integrated geothermal wall heating – so the wall contributes to warm up the building.

The facade is just one of the reasons why the office building has achieved the highest possible DGNB certification – platinum – as well as winning numerous awards, including the coveted German Sustainability Award (GSA) Architecture 2020. Sustainability is a natural part of Alnatura’s DNA, as the company runs a chain of organic supermarkets and also produces a wide range of organic foods.

Health and sustainability therefore also played a key role in the design of the office building’s restaurant, explains interior designer Lena Götze from the architectural firm haas cook zemmrich STUDIO 2050, which designed the Alnatura Campus:

“Alnatura knew from the start that they wanted a vegetarian restaurant. An eating venue to serve the company’s employees, but which is also open to the general public. The choice therefore fell on the restaurant chain Tibits, which specialises in running vegetarian restaurants in several European countries,” she says.

From barracks to attractive urban district

Once a restaurant supplier was chosen, many of the decisions about its interior design naturally fell into place. Tibits is known for its efficient buffet concept and an eye-catching and individual décor, where diners can serve themselves from a centrally located boat-shaped buffet table, and then quickly find themselves a seat at the tables.

“A key aspect of the interior design is that guests can flow past the buffet table easily and smoothly, so that you can quickly take your food, pay and settle down at a table,” explains Lena Götze.

During the daytime, the restaurant primarily serves Alnatura’s employees, but later in the day the restaurant is mainly used by the general public. Alnatura dreams about transforming the area, which used to be a military barracks on the outskirts of the city, into an attractive place that local residents will naturally gravitate towards.

“Alnatura is also planning to open an organic supermarket next to Alnatura Campus. A kindergarten and school garden have also been built on campus, where schoolchildren can learn how to grow vegetables. These are all facilities that will benefit the company’s employees and the local community,” says Lena Götze.

Focus on materials and good acoustics

As for the rest of Alnatura’s head office, the choice of materials in the restaurant was extremely important.

“The restaurant obviously has to support the building’s overall sustainability narrative through its choice of solid materials. Among other things, we have laid a terrazzo floor that connects the restaurant to the building’s central atrium with a glass and steel connecting structure,” says Lena Götze.

The acoustics have also had a high priority in the restaurant.

“In general, we Germans like it a little more subdued when we’re eating, and therefore we needed to ensure good acoustics in the restaurant, which is often busy with people passing through. In collaboration with an acoustics expert, we’ve chosen acoustic panels from Troldtekt for the ceilings, which has produced a very efficient and beautiful result,” she explains.

She adds that Troldtekt panels have also been used in the company Promega’s headquarters in Walldorf south of Darmstadt.

Like in many other restaurants, the MEP installations in the Alnatura restaurant are exposed, while the acoustic panels sit above them.

The Alnatura building was ready in 2019. However, the corona pandemic meant that the building and restaurant could not be fully used for some time. However, there is a lot to suggest that the citizens of Darmstadt are keen to leave the city centre to visit the new area around Alnatura’s head office:

"We are pleased to note that Tibits is well attended – both by employees who take breaks or short meetings here, as well as by other guests from Darmstadt and parents who follow their children to kindergarten. It also comes into play that vegetarian restaurants are becoming more and more popular”, explains Lena Götze.

Lena Götze, interior designer from haas cook zemmrich STUDIO 2050

Facts: Alnatura

Project: Construction of Alnatura Arbeitswelt in Darmstadt, Germany
Architects: haas cook zemmrich STUDIO2050, Freie Architekten PartG mbH, Stuttgart
Client: Alnatura Foundation, Bickenbach

Troldtekt products: 

Ceiling panels: Troldtekt acoustic panels
Colour: Grey 208
Structure: Fine (1.5 mm wood wool)
Edge design: 5 mm bevelled edges, K5
Installation: With Troldtekt screws

The company headquarters of Alnatura in Darmstadt were awarded the top platinum status by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB).

Alnatura Arbeitswelt is also the winner of the German Sustainability Prize 2020 (der Deutsche Nachhaltigkeitdspreis) in architecture.

>> Read more about Alnatura in the Troldtekt reference section