Inauguration of new Leica Headquarters
Leica returns to its roots in its brand new headquarters in Wetzlar
It is both a beginning and a return. With the inauguration of its new and larger corporate headquarters, Leica Camera AG is returning to its roots. Wetzlar, in the German state of Hesse, is the birthplace of the Leica camera and the home of Ernst Leitz, the company that went on to become Leica Camera AG. This is where, 100 years ago, Oskar Barnack invented and constructed the first still-picture camera for 35 mm cine film with a negative format of 24 × 36 mm and laid the foundation stone for the commercial success of the Leica 35 mm camera – an innovation that irrevocably changed the world of photography and paved the way for countless classic, spectacular, historic and earth-shattering photographs.
This year, the company will not only be celebrating the official opening of the new complex, but also ‘100 years of Leica photography’. Leica has therefore invited numerous photographers, customers and other guests to come to Wetzlar to celebrate both occasions. In the words of Dr Andreas Kaufmann, chairman of the Supervisory Board and majority shareholder at Leica Camera AG: ‘No other brand has so crucially shaped and influenced the past 100 years of photography like Leica has – by continuing to provide photographers with the best tool and superb lenses to match. The Leitz Camera set out from Wetzlar to conquer the world. Now that Leica Camera AG is returning to its birthplace, we are underlining the immense importance the city possesses for the entire optical industry segment in Germany. Leica Camera AG is returning to Wetzlar, to a new home that is open to visitors and photography enthusiasts and offers them a unique experience with valuable insights into the past, present and future of photography.’
Tradition and modernity, the past and the future, quality and perfection, not to mention intense concentration on the essence – all these are reflected in the new company complex. It marks a new beginning and simultaneously pays homage to the roots of Leica. It transforms the brand and its presence into a tangible experience and thus creates a future-oriented context for the entire world of Leica.
The plans prepared by the architects, gruber + kleine-kraneburg, have been realised in the construction of an ultra-modern, new complex with a ground plan area of around 27,000 square metres, for the production, administration and customer care divisions of Leica Camera AG and the Leica Akademie. Built to state-of-the-art energy efficiency standards, the new complex accommodates Leica’s around 700 employees in Wetzlar. Openly visible production areas, a Leica experience zone, a Leica Galerie, a store, a photo studio, a restaurant and a coffee house offer a wide range of attractions for visitors, Leica enthusiasts and anyone fascinated by photography. A central plaza creates a binding element between the new headquarters of Leica Camera AG and the facilities occupied by Weller Feintechnik GmbH and ViaOptic GmbH on the Leitz-Park site. The overall investment volume for the new Leitz-Park complex ran to 60 million euros.
As this fresh start simultaneously celebrates the location, the camera and the centennial, Leica Camera AG decided to also express this in architectural terms – with an ensemble that characterises and reflects the identity of the brand. Alfred Schopf, chairman of the Executive Board at Leica, explains: ‘It was our intention to create not only a place where our cameras, lenses and sport optics products are made, but also a place that visibly expresses the values of our brand. The Leitz-Park celebrates the Leica legend in many ways – be it in exhibitions of photography, the Leica experience or in a look behind the scenes of the production process. We expect to see ten thousands of visitors every year, many of them from abroad – after all, Frankfurt airport is only 60 kilometres from here.’
Alfred Schopf particularly emphasises the energy efficiency concept and the expansion of the production facilities at the complex. ‘With geothermal energy collectors under the car park and upgradable photovoltaic elements on the roofs, the complex is able to cover a large proportion of its energy needs from sustainable sources,’ explains the chairman of the Executive Board. ‘The production and administrative buildings are built to the latest environmental and energy efficiency standards and will allow us to rapidly satisfy the enormous demand for Leica products in a timely fashion. Our colleagues will enjoy a modern and attractive working environment that motivates, promotes creativity and enables us to provide Leica’s familiar technical perfection, satisfying the most stringent quality demands. The new headquarters development is a further milestone in the history of our company that benefits not only us, but also our customers and visitors.’
In the Leica experience zone, visitors can discover everything about the past and present of the company and the manufacture of optical products made in Germany. Three windows allow guests to see what goes on in the clean rooms in which the lens elements, complete lenses and cameras are made. Individual window panes are set up as touchscreen panels and let visitors interactively access films, photos and detailed information simply by swiping and touching, as on the screen of a smartphone or tablet PC. The top priority in the Leica Store is personalised service. At the same time, customers visiting the Wetzlar Store also have the opportunity to purchase Leica products during their visit.
Leica Camera – A Partner for Photography
Leica Camera AG is an international, premium manufacturer of cameras and sports optics. The legendary reputation of the Leica brand is based on a long tradition of excellent quality, German craftsmanship and German industrial design, combined with innovative technologies. An integral part of the brand's culture is the diversity of activities the company undertakes for the advancement of photography. In addition to the Leica Galleries and Leica Akademies spread around the world, there are the Leica Hall of Fame Award and, in particular, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA), which is considered one of the most innovative sponsorship awards existing today. Furthermore, Leica Camera AG, with its headquarters in Wetzlar, Hesse, and a second production site in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal, has a worldwide network of its own national organisations and Leica Retail Stores.