5 minutes with Jürgen Wax, CEO of Josef Gartner GmbH
Josef Gartner GmbH has its head office in Gundelfingen an der Donau with just under 8,000 inhabitants but impresses all over the world with its spectacular glass façades. The company’s most well-known projects include the Elbphilharmonie that just opened in January, the BMW Welt in Munich or the new Apple Campus in California. Mr Jürgen Wax is going to tell us more about the SME’s success.
You For Hamburg’s new landmark, the recently opened Elbphilharmonie, you co-developed the special glass for the façade and installed it as part of your façade design. You were also involved in the construction of other impressive buildings What was your most exciting project?
The list of exciting projects is very long at Gartner. Our company recently completed a really extraordinary project: the new headquarters for Apple in Cupertino, USA, which is opening this year. Gartner had never developed and produced a façade of this size before. We installed 3 x 15 m large curved glass into our façade elements. We also developed our own partly remote-controlled systems, conveyor vehicles and cranes for the on-site assembly to enable us to install the extra large elements The UFO shaped campus ultimately has a circumference of almost 1.6 kilometres. You don’t complete a project like that every day. I think it was a special project for everyone at Gartner not just from a technical point of view but also because Apple is a world-famous brand.
When I go back into the company’s history, I think of so many highlights. As we offer one-offs and no off-the-shelf products, every project is exciting for us. Spontaneously, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan springs to mind, which was the highest building in the world at 508 metres from 2004 to 2007 or the BMW Welt in Munich. The Elbphilharmonie is certainly one of our publicly most well-known projects most recently. The façade alone gives this landmark in Hamburg a very special look. Gartner developed and produced 21,800 m² of façade here in Gundelfingen in total. Every element of the main façade is a one-off. The development of the curved panes was a huge challenge for us together with various glass manufacturers and processors that took two years alone. It is therefore also an unparalleled project of unprecedented scale. In the end we managed to develop a safe and functional façade that meets the specified architectural requirements exactly – that naturally makes us very proud.
Your company is celebrating its 150th anniversary next year. Everything began with a small steel workshop, today Josef Gartner GmbH is the world leader in pioneering technology for architectural envelopes for buildings. What were the milestones that led to this remarkable development?
Gartner was founded in 1868 in Gundelfingen an der Donau. Back then it was of course still a small workshop. However, the company was always keen to explore new avenues and focus on custom products. Gartner gradually developed from a steel workshop into a provider of doors, locking systems, windows and lastly façades. There wasn’t initially a real milestone – it was a constant development. The first major geographical leap was the Connaught Center in Hong Kong, which was opened in 1984. Before that, we had been internationally active since 1960, mainly in London. Great Britain is still one of our most important markets to date. We have also been strongly represented on the American market since the end of the 1990s. In 2001 we then became part of the Permasteelisa Group and therefore part of the world’s largest façade construction company.
Our innovations were always formative throughout the corporate history. For example, Gartner had the so-called integrated façade patented in 1968. An outer envelope that also heats and cools, besides a façade's usual functions such as sound and heat insulation. At the same time, the air-conditioning system is integrated into the façade's profiles and posts. At that time it was a world first.
Another technological milestone is the double skin façade. With this system, another impact pane is hung in front of the actual façade. Besides superb functionality, this type of façade has the major advantage that windows can even be built into the upper floors. While it is considered to be normal in the USA for buildings to be cooled and heated using air-conditioning it is felt to be rather annoying in Europe if you cannot open any windows. However, air flows do not allow for this any more from a certain building height upwards. Natural ventilation is also possible at great heights thanks to the double skin façade. The first double skin façade was installed by us on the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt am Main in 1997.
Today we focus particularly on sustainability. With the Closed Cavity Façade (CCF), a further development of the double skin façade, we have developed a type of façade that stands for economic viability, efficiency and transparency. There is a completely closed space between the outer and inner façade, a cavity, which makes the façade extremely energy efficient. We built the first CCF in 2010 for Roche in Rotkreuz (Switzerland).
Josef Gartner GmbH has remained loyal to the Gundelfingen location over all that time. What is special about this place in Swabia?
First of all we are simply historically linked to Gundelfingen, as it is where the company was in fact founded. And Dr Fritz Gartner, member of the founding family, still lives here and is also Chair of the Supervisory Board. Gundelfingen might not be a metropolis like Munich but it is nevertheless situated centrally between Augsburg, Munich and Ulm, Stuttgart.
We have local experts here that we could not do without. The employees have strong roots here and are loyal. Their parents and grandparents often worked at Gartner. We also want to continue driving this forward with our in-house training and development opportunities. The number of employees who moved here especially for Gartner is also growing though.
We invest large sums in the location every year. We recently invested just under 2 million in a new production line. There are huge production areas on our plant site with an area of more than 220,000 m² where our façades are Made in Germany. And in the Swabian region we also find other hidden champions like us who we ultimately have a relationship with, be it as a supplier or partner.
Your company has a presence all over the world. Only last year the first construction project was completed in South America, the USA and Great Britain are among your most important sales markets. Your team is also international and represented worldwide. How do you deal with this cultural diversity?
We see cultural diversity as an enrichment. We treat our customers and also any other business partners and employees equally based on our corporate values. One of our values is “Work with Respect” and that is exactly what we aim for. We have only managed to position ourselves so broadly and internationally with tolerance, understanding and openness towards other cultures.
How do you like to spend your free time in Gundelfingen and the surrounding area?
I am a Lower Bavarian myself and have my roots there but Gundelfingen and Swabia are kind of a prime example of Bavaria, just like Lower Bavaria: rural surroundings and yet in close proximity to major urban areas and infrastructure. Down-to-earth, genuine people and a whole range of different recreational opportunities. Everything is in fact possible here: water skiing and cycling, visits to museums in Ulm and Augsburg or a shopping trip to Munich and the mountains are also not far away in the winter.
Bavaria’s economy is vibrant – it’s mainly the people who live and work here that contribute to that. We present an interesting personality from business and research every month in our “5 minutes with...” section.