Architects Turn Hydroelectric Power Into Thing Of Beauty

Architects are famous for going overboard on metaphors. Consider Becker Architekten, a German firm, which describes a recent project as summoning “a smoothed river stone” and ‘a frozen wave.’ Also: “a stranded whale.”

At this point, we should probably point out that the architects are talking about a power station. We should also point out that they’re totally right. The hydroelectric power station, in Kempten, Germany, is the sort of uniquely sculptural industrial architecture — a mass of curving concrete stretched long and low on the left bank of the river Iller — that lends itself to all sorts of purple prose. We’re partial to the stranded whale simile.

The station substitutes a hydroelectric plant that dated back to the 1950s and supports 3,000 households with 10.5 million kilowatt-hours a year. At first, an engineering firm floated a perfectly good, perfectly boring replacement, but authorities scrapped the design in favor of Becker’s. Why? They wanted the riverfront to feel like a riverfront, not an industrial park. Okay, so it’s no San Antonio River Walk. But it’s no Cimarron either. Now, thanks to Becker’s design, the river’s got a new, continuous pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. Happy stone-wave-whale watching!

[Images by Brigida Gonzalez; hat tip to Yatzer] SL