The main building, formerly the Oswald Berliner Brewery, was once a part of the Berlin Wall; the third floor windows facing what was once West Germany served as outlooks for the prying eyes of GDR watchmen.
Since the Mauerfall in 1989, the complex has been home to an agglomeration of small businesses, housing, and storage facilities akin to the walled city of Kowloon. In the basement, we discovered the subterranean party den of the Nigerian ambassador to the GDR.
The Oswald Berliner Brewery structure consists of five distinct building parts, built at different times ranging from the late-19th to the early-20th century.
To highlight the beauty and integrity of the original structure, we aimed to recreate the pre-World War I facade as accurately as possible, as hardly any historical photos or original plans exist. The removal of the plaster cladding to reveal the original brick facade was a tricky undertaking due to strict German regulations regarding climate protection. The circulation and spatial logic were manipulated to satisfy the requirements of a 21st century start-up landscape. The offices of the internet company Soundcloud, for example, occupy formerly separate building parts and floor levels that were laced together with open internal staircases, creating a continuous spatial system connecting three floors of office program.
The addition of the new fourth and fifth floors demanded a careful response to the distinct structural and spatial properties of the old building parts. Thus, the design process for the two top floors can be best described as a cat lying down on a rugged stone wall, shifting and turning until it finds a suitably comfortable position for an afternoon nap.
The resulting topography forms a village-like arrangement of white volumes, which are home to clusters of small start-ups, gathered around a central outdoor plaza on the fifth floor.
The ground floor hosts co-working spaces and a restaurant, and is open to the campus courtyards, gardens, terraces, and event spaces in the basement.
The basement of Factory Berlin consists of distinct, multipurpose areas including 400m² halls and circular brick spaces, which were once occupied by massive round oil tanks. The complex subterranean program has been optimized to allow full indoor-outdoor event circulation.