Text description provided by the architects. The extensive complex of halls to the west of the ‘Seilerei‘ (ropeyard) is the final component in the regeneration of the northern Schanzenstraße in the vicinity of the venue of the ‘Harald Schmidt Show‘ and ‘E-Werk‘. A mix of small offices, workshops, studios and storage spaces was created on a total area of 12,000 sqm.
The former warehouses were built between 1912/13 and the 1960s. They were used by the Felten & Guilleaume ropeyard to store raw materials as well as their finished products prior to worldwide shipment by rail. In addition to ropes and cables used in mining and bridge construction, these products also included land, underground and submarine cables.
The historic stock – hall roofs, industrial floors and facade fragments
The historic stock, the halls’ existing building elements, seemed extremely disparate at first. Steel roofs from the 1960s covered in ribbed metal sheeting were joined to old, riveted steel framework rafters with expanded cinder concrete infill, a continuous industrial concrete floor as well as facade segments made out of prefabricated 1960s homogenous concrete units, large lightweight concrete slabs and even a fierce looking in-situ concrete wall added in the 1990s. The express aim was to use all the serviceable building components – even less ‘elegant‘ ones like porous concrete and standardized prefab elements – in the conversion, not merely for the sake of economy, but to use them as a model on which to base the ‘perfection’ of the new facades.
A new strong industrial form to face the distinctive brick rope yard building
The principal aim of the urban design was to place next to the distinctive, multi-storied brick rope-yard, a similarly imposing structure which would emphasis the industrial character of the site as well as provide the visual impact needed to successfully market the commercial development.
In order to achieve this within the framework of the existing inhomogeneous structure, we pursued a consistent design strategy for the overall complex, which included the following components:
a uniform palette of materials and colors for the entire exterior
the development of a specific design theme for the facades for high level visual impact
a common, identity-forming theme to provide the rental units (courtyards) with a distinctive internal structure
a uniform palette of materials and colours applied across all of the rental unit interiors.
Uniform palette of materials and colours
The 1960s prefabricated concrete halls as well as the earlier halls with their expanded cinder concrete roof undersides suggested the use of the warm grey colour of concrete. Since concrete is an appropriate material in the industrial context, its warm grey colour formed the basis of the proposed palette of materials. All other materials were selected accordingly: the anodised coating of the aluminium facade as well as the mineral paint for the porous concrete slabs and the metallic colours for the visible sections of the steel structure. With this homogenous colour palette the heterogeneous fragments could be forged into one strong composition.
Distinct facade design – perforated sheet metal
We designed the glazed facade sections with two particular aspects in mind: to avoid the appearance of an ‘office facade’ and to find a continuous design concept for all applications. The facade we developed is an abstract composition of solid, perforated and glazed areas. The perforated sheet metal played a special role; its various functions (safety railing, sun protection, security) and the perforated pattern was intended to look industrial and imply flexibility.
Private and semi-private courtyards provide oases in the working environment
Given the considerable depth of the halls, it seemed appropriate to use courtyards as a common structural and identifying theme. This helped to achieve the required lighting levels, and also offered opportunities for providing each rental unit with a recreation space with timber decking and customised planting. These are designed as inward-looking atriums, roomy entrance yards, or green and communal garden courtyards.
Flexible floor plans for small subunits
The client placed much emphasis on the long-lasting value of the architecture, so the floor plans were designed to allow the division of rental areas into 250 to 400 m² units, and to enable them to be converted into either large open plan spaces or small cellular spaces. The result is a diverse mix of one and two storey units which can be combined in many ways.