Smart Factory

Architect: Barkow Leibinger

Owner: Trumpf, Inc.

Location: Hoffman Estates, Illinois

Standing out among the bland office parks and faceless warehouses along I-90 just northwest of Chicago, the Smart Factory houses a prototypical showroom of advanced machine tools used to fold and shape sheet metal. Positioned strategically near Chicago O’Hare International Airport, it occupies a parcel of land reclaimed from an abandoned corporate campus.

Guided by the client’s belief that good architecture improves all workplaces and, therefore, its products, the factory positions the company in one of its most important markets. In Chicago, the client can present its vision to customers in the Midwest, meeting them at their doorstep to catalyze a new era of industry.

The building is offset in two volumes, the higher of which faces an expanse of the highway and contains the showroom for a German machine tool and laser manufacturer. Eleven laser-cut Vierendeel trusses spanning 140 feet contain the machines, some of which were used to cut and fold them. A central catwalk and meeting spaces are woven into the webbing of trusses, providing clients an overlook of the machines and processes below. A control room connects all of the elements to the column-free machine hall and provides space for welcoming customers and informing them of the latest technological advances.

Interiors are defined by straightforward industrial finishes of steel, charred wood, polished concrete, and expanded metal. The factory’s curtain wall glazing on the north and south sides, and corrugated Corten steel on the east and west sides, presents an image that is as transparent as it is opaque.

The second volume will soon offer spaces for a lobby, meeting rooms, an open office, and auditorium arranged around a central courtyard. Its form is unified by a gently raked roof slope from north to south, further integrating it into the surrounding wetlands.

Additional information

Architect of Record: Heitman Architects Inc., Itasca, Illinos

General Contractor: McShane Construction Company, Rosemont, Illinois

Project Management: Lendlease, Chicago, IL

Structural Engineer:

Design: Knippers Helbig GmbH, Berlin, Germany and New York, NY

Of record: KJWW Engineering Consultants, Naperville, Illinois

Climate/Energy Design, Mechanical & Electrical Engineer, HVAC: KJWW Engineering Consultants, Chicago, IL

Façade Consultant: Knippers Helbig GmbH, Berlin, Germany and New York, NY

Lighting Design: Studio Dinnebier, Berlin, Germany

Landscape Architect:

Design: Capatti Staubach, Berlin, Germany

Of record: Gary R. Weber Associates Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, USA


Jeanne Chen, AIA, Chair, Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners, Santa Monica, California

Rania Alomar, AIA, RA-DA, West Hollywood, California

Alicia Berg, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Raymond M. Bowman, Assoc. AIA, Pittsburgh, PA

Katherine K. Chia, FAIA, Desai Chia Architecture PC, New York, NY

Shannon R. Christensen, AIA, CTA Architects Engineers, Billings, Montana

Eugene C. Dunwody Jr., AIA, Dunwody/ Beeland Architects, Macon, Georgia

Henry Moss, AIA, Bruner/Cott & Associates, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts

David Rosa-Rivera, Savannah College of Art and Design, Bayamón, Puerto Rico

Image credits

Smart Factory Chicago

Simon Menges, Berlin


Steve Hall, Hall + Merrick Photographers, Chicago


Simon Menges, Berlin


Simon Menges, Berlin


Simon Menges, Berlin