From a small art foundry in Ulm to an internationally successful system provider of high-tech aluminium façades, WICONA's 70 year history began in 1948 and from humble beginnings, has flourished into an internationally renowned brand.
The company's history began in 1948, with the foundation of WICONA in Ulm as a separate business division of Wieland-Werke AG. Today – 70 years later – it has developed, from these humble begin-nings, into an internationally renowned brand for high-quality, technically sophisticated aluminium system solutions for façades, window and doors – a real success story!
The company's origins date back well into the 19th century: In 1820, Philipp Jakob Wieland (1793–1873) took over the art and bell foundry from his uncle, Thomas Frauenlob in Rosengasse, Ulm, and started manufacturing utensils made from copper alloys. The next important phases were the change to the production of tubes and profiles (1901) and the foundation of Wieland-Werke AG (1919).
In 1948, WICONA was established as a design office for extruded profiles for the building industry, as a separate business division within Wieland-Werke. The experience gained with profiles made from archi-tectural bronze were transferred to aluminium material. The name originated as an acronym: Wieland Constructions in Aluminium.
In the 1950s, the product ranges included profiles for shop windows, display windows and roller shut-ters, handrail and stair guard profiles, standard profiles and aluminium alloy sheets. They were deliv-ered directly to locksmiths and joineries in the Ulm area. Year after year, the profile range was continu-ally expanded.
The construction of a warehouse at the company's headquarters was the next step in the company's expansion. Even then, there was a hallmark: the intensive customer consultancy in application and processing.
With the registration in 1953 of WICONA as a trademark, there began the consistent and determined expansion of the distribution network, first in Germany, then in Austria (around the end of the 1950s), France (1967), Switzerland (1975), Denmark (1978), Spain (1980), Italy (1981) and the UK (1982).
In 1988, WICONA was completely divested from Wieland-Werke and established as a independent com-pany; 75% of the shares remain with Wieland, and a strong shareholder was found in Hydro Aluminium, who initially owned 25% of the shares. Three years later, WICONA was a 100% subsidiary of Hydro Alu-minium (a subsidiary company of Norsk Hydro) and renamed WICONA Bausysteme GmbH.
The construction of the Technical and Certification Centre in Bellenberg in 1992 was another milestone in the company's history, as was the opening of the Service Centre with a large, fully automated ware-house in Gerstungen (1999). In between, WICONA continued to pursue its path in European markets and beyond: firstly, with the expansion of sales in Scandinavia and Benelux. In 1994, licence agreements were concluded for the production of WICONA products in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Japan. During this phase, other European countries were added to the existing foreign markets, with Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Portugal and Romania. By 2001, the Ulm-based aluminium systems company was represented in 19 countries on four continents.
From 2004 onwards, the company introduced a new corporate name, Hydro Building Systems GmbH; in parallel, WICONA was successfully established as a brand in additional countries such as United Arab Emirates and China.
In 2009, the company built its own Test Centre, which includes a façade testing facility, at the Bellen-berg location. At the same time, the company introduced its new brand slogan “Technik für Ideen”, which has since shaped the appearance of WICONA's communications worldwide.
In 2013, a joint venture between the Norwegian companies Hydro and Orkla led to the foundation of the Norwegian company Sapa AS and WICONA became the premium brand of the new Sapa Building Systems Group.
After the opening of a WICONA showroom at the Building Centre in London (2014) and Madrid (2016), a project like this also started in Germany in June 2017, together with additional partners in Frankfurt, which was opened under the name of NEXT. In autumn of the following year, Sapa AS was acquired by the company Hydro in Oslo; since then, WICONA has again become a brand of Hydro.
PUSHING THE LIMITS OF ALUMINIUM FAÇADES is the WICONA anniversary motto
Engineering skills and perfect craftsmanship remove boundaries when it comes to mastering the tech-nical challenges of complex building envelopes in a sustainable and future-orientated way, by using in-dividual project-specific solutions.
Innovation, precision and individuality have always been the hallmarks of the WICONA brand and, across the world, are reflected in intelligent façade constructions, whose quality represents sustainable, future-shaping architecture. This can be seen and experienced around the world in buildings such as; the Monte Rosa Hut in Zermatt (Switzerland); the Bharati Research Station in the Antarctic; the New-foundland Tower apartment building in London (UK); the 520 West 28th Street apartment building in New York (USA); the École Normale Supérieure University building in Paris (France); or the residential high-rise Henninger Turm in Frankfurt am Main (Germany). These are just a few examples of outstand-ing project solutions, both nationally and internationally.
For 70 years, WICONA has successfully delivered innovative and sophisticated façade solutions that set the standards in terms of technology and design. The basis for its global success lies in the expertise and experience to offer the best solution for each project, achieving maximum performance levels, with be-spoke customer-specific designs. To achieve this, WICONA works with professional partners both at a local and international level. These partners, in the fields of planning, project management, façade in-stallation and fabrication, are united in their passion for creative design, quality standards right down to the smallest detail, and the ambition to master complex technical challenges, thus pushing the limits of modern architecture.
PUSHING THE LIMITS OF ALUMINIUM FAÇADES is the WICONA anniversary motto. It describes both the historical development and the future course of the brand. When shaping the city of the future, “Push-ing the Limits” should apply to the creativity of architects and to the wishes of developers. “Pushing the Limits” is the benchmark for sustainability and responsibility in construction. To do this, we need to en-sure we are continually pushing the limits of aluminium façades, moving them, stretching them, ex-panding the space.
Innovation for Success
Innovation creates competitive advantage in the market. From the beginning, WICONA has been able to offer new, technically sophisticated ideas and solutions, achieving real progress for market partners and clients. This success is based on 180 registered patents, 46 of which are still in force.
WICONA can justifiably claim to lead innovation in the sector. Currently, the Ulm-based building system company has proved this claim yet again with the introduction of the WICLINE 75 MAX window system, which is made from recycled material and features a completely concealed handle.
Looking back over the last seventy years, there have been many other exciting innovations; sometimes it was only a construction detail, or as in 2010 when a complete "evolution" took place, which gradually included the whole product range. WICONA defined this concept as continuous further development of its own systems with the aim of meeting the growing requirements for sustainability, energy efficiency, thermal insulation and climate protection. This broad wave of innovations was expressed by introduc-ing the title "evo" to product names.
Overview of some important WICONA innovations:
- 1957 - First range of thermal breaks
- 1991 - Technical approval of bonded facade glazing systems
- 1991 - Windows with concealed sash
- 1998 - Technical approval of bonded façades with mechanical locking mechanism
- 1999 - Concealed drainage on sliding units
- 2001 - Technical approval of breathable aluminium facades
- 2001 - Direct positioning system (DPS) for hardware
- 2009 - First intelligent facade system TEmotion with integrated building technology
- 2010 - Evolution of the whole product range
- 2013 - Closed cavity facade
- 2014 - Introduction of thermal insulation bars made of recycled polyamide
- 2015 - Window system with pressure compensation
- 2016 - New functionally reliable compression seal for quick and simple installation of unitised curtain walls
- 2017 - New pull and slide fittings
- 2018 - Window system made from recycled material
- 2018 - Introduction of concealed window handle
When it comes to innovation, there is a regular exchange of information within the Hydro Group. Inno-vations have the same high priority for the Norwegian parent company as they do for WICONA. As a leading aluminium group, Hydro aims to boost its own customers and to help society become sustaina-ble through innovation. Its success comes from over a century's experience in technology develop-ments and renewable energies, such as hydro power. The Group is a leader in aluminium recycling, put-ting its philosophy of environmental responsibility into practice – just like WICONA – and also makes it a prime criterion in research and development. Being part of the Hydro Group gives WICONA a key ad-vantage in the early detection of global trends and is the basis for the development of integrated sus-tainable solutions.