Werner Sobek was born 1953 in Aalen, Germany. From 1974 to 1980, he studied structural engineering and architecture at the University of Stuttgart. From 1980 to 1986, he was post-graduate fellow in the research project ‘Wide-Span Lightweight Structures’ at the University of Stuttgart and finished his PhD 1987 in structural engineering. In 1983, Sobek won the Fazlur Khan International Fellowship from the SOM Foundation.
In 1991, he became a professor at the University of Hanover (successor to Bernd Tokarz) and director of the Institute for Structural Design and Building Methods. In 1992 he founded his own company Werner Sobek which now has offices in Stuttgart, Frankfurt, London, Moscow, New York, and Dubai. The company has over 200 employees and works with all types of structures and materials. Its core areas of expertise are lightweight construction, high-rise construction, façade design, special constructions made from steel, glass, titanium, fabric and wood, as well as the design of sustainable buildings.
Since 1994, he has been a professor at the University of Stuttgart (successor to Frei Otto) and director of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and of the Central Laboratory for Structural Engineering. In 2000, he took over the chair of Jörg Schlaich, and fused the Institute for Lightweight Structures and the Institute for Construction and Design into the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK). Both in its research and teaching, the ILEK at the University of Stuttgart unites the aspect of design that is dominant in architecture with the focus on analysis and construction from structural engineering as well as materials science. On the basis of a goal-oriented and interdisciplinary approach, the institute is concerned with the conceptual development of all types of construction and load-bearing structures, using all types of materials. The areas of focus span construction with textiles and glass all the way to new structures in reinforced and prestressed concrete. From the individual details to the whole structure, the approach focuses on the optimisation of form and construction with respect to material and energy use, durability and reliability, recyclability and environmental sustainability. The results of this work are published in the bilingual (German/English) serial from the institute (IL) or published individually in special research reports on particular topics.
I got a presentation of his view on the future building world and was surprised by his preference for cellular materials where possible. These materials have to be by preference recycled materials. It is clear that cellular recycled glass, foamed with a minumum of energy in large boards is exactly what he is looking for. Indeed, a simple structure where this material is a structural element AND thermal insulation allows easy recycling later on. The figure on the right is exactly how we should NOT work.