Review company excursion: Sorba, November 4th 2010

Early Thursday morning a touring bus with BouT members left for Winterswijk, a town in eastern Holland near the border with Germany. Wondering why anybody would travel there, here is one of them: Sorba. This company evolved from a heating installing company to one of the leading companies in façade engineering and offered us an opportunity to visit them. After a little over two hours driving through the idyllic landscape of Holland, which was very nice for our international members, we arrived at Sorba. They welcomed us with warm tea and coffee, of which the latter was much needed for a lot of us because of the early departure.

An impressing amount of projects from their portfolio was shown in a lecture about the company. Some of us had never even heard of Sorba before the excursion, so it was a big surprise to see in how many well known projects they were/are involved. However, they only get involved in non-standard projects, because many companies can produce standard façade components.

Sorba is not a company that produces materials for facades, it assembles complete facades. Sometimes they make some adjustments to the materials to fit the façade design. An example is the 90° bended glass panes plus window frames for Las Palmas in Rotterdam.

The starting point of the design process is most of the time a desired image from the architect. The question is whether Sorba can make it or not. To get a grip on what is happening with the connections between the façade and the main load bearing structure, they make a 3D computer model. By making this model a lot of problems occur that can be solved before the final design goes into the production phase. Before big orders get placed at material manufacturers, they make a mockup of the façade. The whole design process happens at the engineering department where we made a stop on the company tour guided by Jan Kosters and Jan Maarten Lieverdink.

The mockups are made in the small facatory adjacent to the office building of Sorba. Everybody was really anxious to see the mockups. First we passed a part of the factory where they assembled the façade parts, adjust the material if needed and make the mockups for testing purposes. Because they only assemble the façade parts, there are not many people working in the factory. In the second building, a big warehouse, we came across a lot of mock-ups from Sorba’s famous projects such as the Institute for sound and motion in Hilversum, a laboratory for the RUG in Groningen and their genius design for a subway station in London. After taking our time to see all the mockups, the bus was already waiting for us to take us back to Delft. But not before receiving a self produced pen tray with the Sorba logo and some extra information about the company.

During the bus ride back to Delft everybody was really enthusiastic about the visit and it definitely made up for the travelling time. It was a really interesting day and all our thanks go out to Sorba for making this possible!