BOLLES+WILSON

BOLLES+WILSON

Housing at St. Sebastian

typology: Residential
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 2016
competition: 2009, 1st prize
GFA: 7.154 sqm
client: Wohn+Stadtbau GmbH
photos © Roman Mensing / Peter Wilson

In 2009 BOLLES+WILSON won the 1st prize for housing and a kindergarten on the site of the 1960ies St Sebastian Church. It was expected that the emblematic oval form of the church be demolished. Instead the kindergarten colonized the nave. It was opened in 2013 – a much published reuse with interior green weather protected play decks.

Now phase 2 is complete, a peripheral frame of housing protecting the kindergarten from a noisy street and giving a precise edge to the adjacent park.

Market realities are clearly visible in the differentiation of the social (subsidized) housing with its bright white and pink plaster facade to Hammer Str. and the owner-occupied flats with their noble dark brick facade facing the mature trees in the park.

One corner tree is explicitly embraced by the projecting white sheet of the street facade.

Only kitchen and bathroom windows are allowed to receive traffic noise; living rooms and balkonies turn inwards to the quiet green space surrounding the kindergarten.

Unexpected colour animates the lift and stair tower and the setback roof apartments. This polychrome trope also animates the skyline of the park elevation. Here big white frames give a grand order, a vertical hierarchy. But ultimately it is the grandeur of the existing trees that claim the status of leading actors in the spatial choreography.

 

 

Merken

Merken

Merken

Cinnamon Tower

typology: Residential
country: Germany
city: Hamburg
year: 2015
competition: 2006, 1st prize
GFA: 4.250 sqm
client: Groß & Partner
awards: BDA Hamburg Architecture Award (1st prize)
German Facade Award for rear-ventilated facades 2015 (commendation)
photos © Christian Richters (tower) / Rainer Mader (pavilion)

The Cinnamon tower was conceived as freestanding campanile – a pin on a piazza was the concept behind the premiated competition design by BOLLES+WILSON for the existing 19th century Harbour Masters Building.

A tower was not anticipated in the competition programme, but the jury agreed that a tower anchors the public functions around the only remaining historical building to survive between the megablocks of the ‘Overseas Quarter’ master plan. The historic building will also be more autonomous.

Slenderness is essential for a campanile. Over the course of its 8-year gestation this was respected – even while its function mutated from stacked restaurants to housing. The 13 x 16 m floor plan tapers towards the top. With a height of 56 meters the tower is 4-times higher than it is wide.

How can such a thin chap be efficient?
The efficient answer is duplex apartments. Originally the concept foresaw seven apartments, each on 2 floors, a panoramic living deck on the upper level and bedrooms with punched windows below. Precise market analysis led to a variation of this formula: one triplex apartment at the top and some 1-floor apartments at lower levels. Built were ten apartments, four with 130 sqm, five with 185 sqm and one with 300 sqm. The tower has a gross floor area of 4.300 sqm and a volume of 16.000 cubic metres. At the ground level, the piazza level is a commercial area of around 300 sqm.

Strict high-rise regulations demanded an escape route from every floor via secured escape stair. The possibility to clean every window from the inside was also a criterion to be met. The spectacular view of the New Elbphilharmonie should not be blurred by dirty windows. Room-high windows on three sides of the living room also allow the tracking of incoming cruise ships.

Facade panels of anodized aluminium sheets in different gradations of dark red correspond to the patchwork of BOLLES+WILSON’s pavilion from 2008. This was the first realized component of the Harbour Masters ensemble. In sunlight these aluminium panels take on colourful nuances while on cloudy days they assume a darker, more serious Paul-Klee like appearance. This is a building that changes its character according to the incidence of light, a new figure on Hamburg’s skyline.

 

 

Red Bar in the Sky

typology: Public
country: Albania
city: Korça
year: 2014
client: Municipality of Korça
photos © Andronira Burda, Daniel Dervishi, Nico Peleshi

In time for Christmas 2014 the city of Korça in Albania realized BOLLES+WILSON’s design for a campanile – the Red Bar in the Sky. It focuses the Theatre Square, the concluding phase of the B+W 2009 masterplan (International Competition 1st prize). The campanile which functions as a lookout tower for Korcians to appreciate the delicate grain of their city is located at the end of the central pedestrian boulevard ‘Shën Gjergji’ (landscaping by B+W) . Opened in winter the Red Bar in the Sky was accompanied by an ice skating rink installed by Greek skating specialists.

Masterplan Korça City Centre
2009 1st prize

Kita 102

typology: educational
country: Germany
city: Frankfurt
year : 1992 / 2014
client: Stadt Frankfurt
awards: German Architecture Award 1993, Commendation
photos © Waltraud Krase (1992), Rainer Mader (2014)

The 1992 Kita 120 in Frankfurt – Griesheim was one of BOLLES+WILSON’s first buildings in Germany. 22 years later it has been extended. What does it mean to revisit an early work? To measure if it has stood the test of time? Or even if the architectural themes of that time are still pertinent today?

What is immediately obvious is that a generous two floor, curvaceous and somewhat expressive sculpted volume is no longer feasible under today’s stringent budget restrictions (the political promise to deliver a kindergarten place for every child). The new extension is single storey, docking on to and sloping down from, an original 7 m high sport and sleeping hall.

The 3 original ground floor classrooms were for conventional pre-school kindergarten use, and the upper 2 rooms after-school homework facilities for older kids. The 3 new ground level classrooms extend kindergarten functions, kids can run out directly from group to garden.

The original building expands in width and height, a conical volume explained at the time as a metaphor for growing – spaces expand and contract as kids run from one end to another. A narrative scenario that extended to details like 2.10m high doors for teachers beside 1.50 m doors only for kids. Draconian budgets preclude such whimsical game playing in the new extension, perhaps it is also no longer the time for architecture to reflect on its syntactical potential. In the original Kita four windows conspired to inscribe a giant letter K across the facade. A readable building for children who are learning to read. Today it is left to colour to signify. A thematized May-Green has been here co-opted (as in almost every second contemporary Kindergarten) to signal a fresh, playful optimism. It is the only internal colour. Also a green horizontal beam/gutter above a south facing glass facade benevolently grows extended sun-blinds (also May green) to wrap the sunny side in a Mediterranean-like slab of shade. Window articulation is no longer expressive, a tough neighbourhood requires defensive measures if night cooling is to be activated.

What was in 1993 described, as an east-west slab turning its back to the noise of a nearby autobahn is now a very long east west slab, still turning its back and opening southward to an extended linear play-ground.

 

1st stage (1992)
2nd stage (2014)

Cologne-Muelheim Harbour District

typology: Masterplan
country: Germany
city: Cologne
year: 2013 - (2015)
competition: 2013, dialogic planning process
' Werkstattverfahren Mülheim Süd Inkl. Hafen'
client: Stadt Köln
partner: kister scheithauer gross, Cologne +
KLA | kiparlandschaftsarchitekten, Duisburg

After a dialogic planning process in 2013, the two competing planning teams around kister scheithauser gross (Cologne) and BOLLES+WILSON have teamed up for the next planning stage. The development of Mülheim’s harbour district is still an on-going process integrating various interests and disciplines. The masterplan for this 52 ha harbour area preserves various grand industrial spaces to create a new district with a unique character and atmosphere.

 

Prof. Johannes Kister / Peter L. Wilson

Inselpark Entrance Complex

typology: office, residential
country: Germany
city: Hamburg
year: 2013
Invited Competition 2011, First Prize
photos © Markus Dorfmueller + Johanna Klier

The masterplan required two towers to mark the entrance to the Garden Show and Building exhibition. The big-brother of the pair, the giant, striped (Jacobs-coat) Sauerbruch and Hutton building, a new hive for Hamburg’s Planning Department (BSU) was not, according to the competition brief, to be upstaged by its neighbour. Already at the outset the bumpy road forward was in evidence when the black facade (no competition for polychromy) of the premiated BOLLES+WILSON entry was rejected by the developers of the railway-track side of the same block – not the right statement for their housing for the elderly. The facade mutated to green. “No green”, said the same developer, green is the colour of their chairman’s football team’s archrivals. The architects insisted that football allegiances is not a credible basis for urban planning decisions, and supported by the ubiquitous director of planning, the corner tower remained green. To get planning approval the developers were caused to sign a commitment that the green ceramic facade, a thematicised official entry to the Garden Show, would not be compromised during planning and construction. A wise requirement as fast track planning was necessitated by delays due to wobbly project financing around 2011. Further down the track a rapid rethink of the green facade was again necessitated by ‘just-in-time’ scheduling. The planed gluing of the rippled ceramic tile stripes would have to happen in winter (sub zero temperatures render glues impotent). A dry system of hung ceramic panels was at the last minute chosen and the respectfully stepping facade arrived as the IBA building exhibition opened.

The 9-floor tower is a medical centre, highly installed individual doctors rooms. Apartments and duplex penthouses with sculptural cut-out balconies occupy the top three floors. A darkening of the green ceramic facade signals a separate function for the four-floor wing to the south. This is the InselAkademie promoting sport for teenagers – not only from the surrounding Wilhelmsburg dockland district, characterised by social housing, immigration and unemployment. The upper floors of the InselAkadamie are group apartments for sporting youth and the lower two floors seminar and the temporary administration rooms of the IBA (International Building Exhibition). This building is in fact the hub of the IBA and also post IBA activities.

© IBA Hamburg GmbH / Falcon Crest Air

House P

typology : Residential
country: Germany
city: Münster
year : 2012
GFA: 140 sqm
client: (private)
photos © Christian Richters

Small is beautiful (+ energy efficient) – compact 140 sqm private house with outstanding ‘sustainability credentials’.
Plastered monolithic insulating ‘Poroton’ brick walls , triple glazing and a deep bore heat exchange pump lead to a non-fossil fuel energy classification (KFW 70) – 30 per cent below the current energy regulation.

 

U Boat Hall

Conversion of the Hanomag 'U-Boat Hall' into a RS+Yellow Furniture Outlet

typology: Retail
country: Germany
city: Hannover
year: 2012
client: RS Möbelhandelsgesellschaft mbH
photos © Olaf Mahlstedt

LOCKED IN SERVITUDE THE DRAMA OF A BUILDING’S MAKING REMAINS HIDDEN: (Louis Kahn)

There is today an enormous potential in the re-scripting of grand industrial spaces, survivors from an epoch that had less trouble expressing itself and its mechanical or technical potency than our current mean and exploitative ‘global shopping-centre-culture’.

One thinks of São Paulo’s Fábrica da Pompéia by Lina Bo Bardi, London’s Tate Bankside, or the Zollverein Coal Mine in Essen, Germany.

This was our first reaction as our client drove his black Porsche into the rusting cathedral of Hannover’s ‘U-boat Hall’. Was it a panic reaction at the end of WW II to build a submarine production space so far from the North Sea? The structure of the hall had in fact been originally designed for a U-boat production site of a naval dockyard in Wilhelmshaven. As it turned out the enigmatically named ‘U-boat Hall’ was only finished in 1944 and was thus not used for armament production.

Now sliced like salami the ‘Industrial Heritage Structure’ is to house various commercial outlets – a mega Bicycle Emporium where racing bikes can be tested in the shop or this landscape of coloured furniture.

This is in fact two shops; RS (wholesome wood) and Yellow (sub-designer). BOLLES+WILSON have already realized their flagship store in Münster and the HQ Building, a rooftop lake above a ‘big box’ two-floor warehouse/distribution centre.

For the ‘U-boat Hall’ the rent was based on the square meters of the hall’s floor. The architectural question was how to maximize this floor area with a selling landscape and a back of house warehouse for customers to pick up their new sofa / table / lamp.

The magnificent scale of rusting columns, elevated crane track and skylight box, resist the invasion of domestic equipment, relegating it to the status of ‘a carpet of coloured pixels’ spread across the selling decks.

 

City Library Helmond

typology: Cultural
country: The Netherlands
city: Helmond
year: 2010
competition: 2006, First Prize
GFA: 5.630 sqm
client: City of Helmond
partner: Vrencken Hoen Architecten
awards: Fritz Hoeger Preis 2014, Winner Special Mention
photos © Christian Richters

Like most Dutch cities Helmond is busy reinventing itself. The new City Library, which officially opens in October 2010, is the first component of a comprehensive new inner city shopping zone (masterplan: Prof. Joan Busquets). Directly adjacent to the new library are the 1970’s Tree Houses and Theatre by Piet Blom. Here the new library facade is moulded and sloped in dialogue with its dramatic neighbour. A between space, a block internal café terrace, a comfortable and dramatic extension of the existing enclosed Theatre Square is the result of this spatial symbiosis.
The outer, street-facing facade is the representative face and entrance of the new library. Upper level projections mark the extremities, brackets (ears) carrying large-format ‘Bibliotheek’ letters. A horizontal facade articulation differentiates ground level shops from glazed and setback first floor (Children’s Library) and the brick surface of the upper office level.

A careful detailing and material choice for external surfaces provides a ‘tactility’ fitting to the historic Helmond city centre. Rough dark brown and unusually horizontal bricks (Hilversum format 50 x 290 mm) on upper levels have open vertical joints and a beige horizontal mortar joint, stressing the layered grain of the brickwork. In contrast the base is in a flat beige brick (in 3 different heights – 50, 100, 140 mm). These are not laid in mortar, but glued together – resulting in a stone-like solidity and homogeneity.

The internal spaces of the library are developed as an unfolding spatial sequence. Much of the ground floor is given over to retail. Entry is from both sides – via a generous double height entrance hall to the street side and via the more intimate café and event corner facing the Theatre Court. The upward sequence is announced by a grand stair, which arrives at a first floor exhibition deck and the ‘piano nobile’ of the library. Here information stations, bookshelves and children / teenager zones are arranged around a central media Hot Spot: precisely circular, a Chinese-red sandwich. The Hot Spot offers the digital latest. The route continues upward concluding in the light-filled upper level with a long working bench integrated in the long ‘tree house-facing’ window.

BOLLES+WILSON’s commission also included furniture and lighting elements, the choreographing of atmosphere and character. Lanterns in the foyer, a newspaper reading table, a striped and upholstered café bench seat with Scandinavian lighting, information counters and a group study room with fragments of a 1950’s mural mounted on the wall, are among the long list of localised detail. The philosophy is one of multiplicity, a user-friendly comfort already much appreciated by librarians and reading Helmonders.

Rationalist Apartments

typology: Residential
country: Albania
city: Tirana
year: 2009

An eight floor building axially adjacent to the University ensemble – the axial focus of Tirana’s 1930’s Italian Masterplan.
Mass is emphasized, balconies internalized as loggias. Materials are reduced to those fitting historical precedent and the current possibilities of construction in Tirana. The particular ‘haptic’ of the base is achieved with wide mortar joints and intentionally irregular layers of broken (reject) tile fragments.

 

Korça City Centre Masterplan

typology: masterplan / landscaping
country: Albania
city: Korça
year: 2009
GFA: ca. 197.000 sqm
competition: 1st prize
client: Municipality of Korça

On Thursday 16 July 2009 the mayor and international jury pronounced BOLLES+WILSON winner of the competition for the new Korça City Centre Masterplan. The international two-stage competition was decided in favour of the Muenster based office for its concept of ‘Scenographic Urbanism’, a choreographing of new buildings and public spaces which pays close attention to the existing grains and potentials of this small but spatially complex city.

Surrounded by dramatic mountains and a wide arcadian valley Korca focuses a region of 360,000 inhabitants. Its urbane morphology reflects the wealth and ambitions of returning emigrants as well as historically strong trade relations with central Europe. Many Novecento and Art Nouveau villas are now restored, many are still crumbling. The aim of the competition was to find a clear concept, which integrates a traffic and pedestrian rational with the qualitative and development needs of the city – a commercial strategy, administrative facilities and residential development. The competition brief also emphasised that the scale of the new Korca should be respectful and appropriate to the historic scale.

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BOLLES+WILSON identified five zones for the revitalisation of the 197,000 sqm city centre. Each zone possessing its own unique character, together they add up to a network of urbane public spaces. At one end of the centre the Cathedral of ‘Christus Resurrection’ anchors, at the other end a Commercial Anchor is added. These are connected by the Boulevard Shen Gjergji – now transformed into a ‘Cultural Promenade’. Reduction in expansive communist road widths allows an extension of the Cathedral Square. This square is planned three steps above the street and framed by café pergolas, an optical filter between traffic and event space. A large stage left of the cathedral and a smaller stage to the right facilitate a wide variety of events. Curved paving stripes echo the Cathedral geometry and serve to discipline market stands.

New figure on the Korca skyline and counterpoint to the Cathedral, a ‘Vertical Mall’ occupies and marshals the parade-ground scaled Theatre Square. A new commercial strip extends from here to the Bazaar via new shopping/housing blocks and a new Bus Station Roof – a Farmers-market platform.

This – the second of the five zones – creates a new commercial hub in downtown Korca.

The third zone is rescripted as a ‘Cultural promenade’, a semi-pedestrian connection between Cathedral and downtown Mall. Here a number of significant buildings such as the ‘Education Museum’ are extended out into the tree-lined, shady and café-filled Promenade as a carpet-like patterned paving, a choreographed sequence of ‘Patterned Squares – Urban Living Rooms’.

The fourth zone revitalises a villa zone with carefully placed new development. In order not to overwhelm the delicate historic scale of Korca a ‘Patchwork Strategy’ is invented – new buildings are paired with restored existing villas to form ‘Development Islands’ (shared economic benefit) and thereby create a network of active block-internal passages.

The final zone of the Masterplan is the ‘Enlarged Park’ (‘green heart’). Here a new triangular-block frames the park edge and by the sale of public land for private development finances the upgrading of the park itself.

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Related project:
RED BAR IN THE SKY
Theatre Square, Korça, 2014

 

 

Pedestrian boulevard 'Shën Gjergji' landscaping
works in progress ...
Finished pedestrian boulevard 'Shën Gjergji'

RS+Yellow Distribution

typology: Light Industrial, Office
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 2009
GFA: 9.200 sqm
client: Rainer Scholze
awards: German Facade Award 2010
photos © Guido Erbring, Markus Hauschild, Christian Richters

When is a warehouse a lake? – in Münster.

This is the third BOLLES+WILSON building for the German-wide furniture chain RS+Yellow, an extension of the homebase storage and distribution centre by 7,000 sqm. The new rectangular building volume stands adjacent to the original 1992 corrugated aluminium warehouse.

The 60 x 66 m two stores ‘Big-Box’ is (as is usual for industrial architecture) reduced to a regular grid of pre-cast columns and widespan floor slabs. Facades are a standard lightweight concrete system. Verticality is emphasised with pyjama colour stripes interspersed with zinc coated grid stripes. These absorb all windows and necessary smoke outlets into an uninterrupted colour curtain.

This warehouse and even perhaps the 1,500 sqm of offices above the delivery bays are precisely realised but relatively conventional. The big surprise comes on arriving at the rooftop meeting rooms and executive offices. Through the intervention of the fire brigade (choreographed alarm) the roof of the building has been flooded – a 45 x 65 m reflecting pool.
The edge detail, laser levelled into invisibility, increases the metaphysical unreality of this sky reflector. Underwater compartments eliviate the risk of mini-tsunamis. Spillage is collected in edge channels and channelled to an internal cistern.

A wooden boardwalk fronts the large format sliding glass facade. A pier extends out to the centre of the water world. Here one can sit surrounded by geometric groves of bamboo. From here the south facing glass front of the roof pavilion reflects again the rippling expanse of water. The facade itself is shaded by a projecting steel pergola and a curtain of louvers descending at the press of a button from its outer edge.
This choreographed overlap of inside and outside, of natural and artificial, of direct and reflected light, create a unique atmosphere which could be described as an industrial scaled Japanese Tea-House.

Eemcentrum Masterplan

typology: masterplan / supervision
country: The Netherlands
city: Amersfoort
year: 2008 - 2013
client: AM Vastgoed, Gouda
rendering © Multi Vastgoed

The Eemcentrum is a new cultural, leisure and residential quartier directly adjacent to the historic city centre. Cinema, housing and commercial components in combination with new city library, art school and pop podium face a conical and sloped square/garden which expands perspectively over its 200 m length. This scenographic choreography developed by BOLLES+WILSON constitutes the aesthetic and legal masterplan for the individual building commissions. Peter Wilson was also planning supervisor monitoring and coordinating the architectural development of the urban ensemble.

Eemblock – O‘Donnell + Tuomey
Row Houses  – Drost + van Veen
Cinema – Kees Rijnboutt
Shopping/Housing/Offices – Mecannoo
Library/Art School/Pop Podium – Neutelings Riedijk
Landscaping – Sant en Co

Spuimarkt

typology: Retail, Leisure, Cultural
country: The Netherlands
city: The Hague
year: 2008
GFA 36.400 sqm
Awards: Shopping Centre of the Year NL 2009
photos © Christian Richters

The Spuimarkt is a permeable block, it hosts the life of the city (tides and eddies of shoppers), it leads Bioscoop and other leisure seekers dramatically upward, and perches them in grand foyers, outlook windows, privileged vantages. The Pathé cinema foyer is a Piranesian space, its stairs flow dramatically upward, they cross, they hover. Just arriving at one of the nine cinemas (2,270 seats) is a cinematic experience – along the way some of the best views in Den Haag.

A richly textured brick facade gives unity and dignity to the whole block; the tactility of the rotated and projecting bricks is comparable to a tweed jacket, its hand-made quality both abstract and traditional. Spuimarkt’s sculptured corporal autonomy is carefully dovetailed into the wider context, mediating between the Bijenkorf and the City Hall to form a trilogy of major urban statements. The building’s varying scales respond to the surrounding context, the grand Grote Marktstraat facade steps down behind to the more intimate street scale of Gedempte Gracht. The lower Pathé cinema entrance reflects the height of the traditional houses it faces.

The sinuous roof silhouette, moulded around the cinema within, is like a topographic landform; an anchoring that gives measure and scale to the complex Den Haag skyline.

+ 0.00 m
+ 10.00 m
+ 13,30 m
+ 20,40 m

Landscaping Hotel NY

typology: Landscape
country: The Netherlands
city: Rotterdam - Kop van Zuid
year: 2006
client: City of Rotterdam (dS+U),
Hotel New York partner
photos © Christian Richters

The former embarkation point for emigration to the New World – a ‘Holland/America’ theme. Two landscapes (intimate Dutch gardens and a prairie-like American event- space) are divided by a conceptual border. Large scale text (like a Steinberg drawing) is inlayed in the pavement. To date the Dutch side including the Hotel Terrace, Maaskant Pavilion, vent Funnels, playground and intimate Dutch gardens is complete. despite regular dockings of American warships the narrative landscape on the American side of the Dutch-Amerika border remains unexecuted.

2 Harbour Buildings

typology: Office
country: Germany
city: Muenster
year: 2006
GFA - no. 14 - 6.400 sqm
GFA - no 16 - 5.000 sqm
client: LVM Versicherungen,
J. B. Bolles-Wilson, P. Wilson
photos © Rainer Mader, Christian Richters

Like its big brothers in Rotterdam, Hamburg, London or Genoa, Münsters canal harbour (released from servitude) is in the process of becoming – but what – a new urban quartier, bar and café mile, victim of city-event culture or melancholic post- industrial hangout for artists and architects.

Hafenweg No. 14 and No. 16 like their warehouse predecessors are ambivalent as to exactly what goods or activities they host. Deep (22m) loft plans facilitate a multitude of layouts. Facades on the other hand are specific, material and character giving.

No. 14, a sharply sculptured orange end building turns out on close inspection to be a stack of bricks close-packed in North-South direction (heads to harbour and street, sides to the end walls), an overt tactility eclipsed by flush mounted sun blinds. Seen from afar the overall volume has photoshop-like graphic quality, a designed lack of depth.

A ballet of sun-louvers also animates the South harbour-facing and predominately glass facade of No. 16. A stepped curtain creating (on sunny days) an intermediate zone between inside and out. Without the obligation of transparency (harbour panorama) or sun protection (North) the street facade of No. 16 conjures a tapestry of muted anodised colour, generous glass squares and 3D projections.

Morse code: The attentive viewer will also discover a 3 cm high ‘dot-dash’ inscription on the lower verge of each balcony, the work of the Dutch artist Milou van Ham. Old Barge Captains and ‘persevering school classes’ will decipher the text:

good day! you are (now) reading a building (2005- ) by Bolles+Wilson (1980- ). you are (now) reading an artwork (2005- ) by milou van ham (1964- ). you are (now) reading morse-code (1837–2000) by samuel morse (1791–1872). you are (now) in he harbour (1898-2005- ) of muenster (793- ). End

south elevation
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+3
north elevation

Wohn+Stadtbau HQ

typology: Office
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 2004
competition: 2001, First Prize
client: Wohn+Stadtbau GmbH
BGF: 9.100 sqm
photos © Christian Richters

Entering the city from the north the straight road rises slightly, not a dramatic topography but enough to awaken expectation – ‘up there I will be in the city’. The sculpted silhouette of the Wohn + Stadtbau building enhances this topographic drama.
Its crest location is critical. The structured plaster facades of the two building volumes (tonal variations of White, Grey and Yellow) give a second reading a surface articulation.
The building front steps back from the heavily trafficked street to a transparent foyer. The ground floor lobby facilitates intensive visitor traffic, waiting spaces extend into the internal court and to first floor meeting rooms. The Wohn + Stadtbau occupy the ground and first floor, the above floors contain  a rich functional mix – offices, medical, fitness and apartments.

RS+Yellow Furniture

RS + Yellow Furniture Outlets
typology: Retail
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 2003
client: Rainer Scholze
GFA: 7.700 sqm
Award for Exemplary Corporate Architecture in NRW 2004
photos © Christian Richters

‘A staging of shopping’. The widespan shop outlet typology usually situated on the periphery is here reconstituted as an urban facade, city near and addressing the city bound / city exiting traffic. Three stores (RS, Yellow, Brands) with an overall shop area of 5.000 m2 cluster with warehouse and delivery bays, around an internal parking piazza. An advertising tower erupts on one corner, a supersign, a new actor in the quartier’s tower landscape (Trinity Church and Fire Station Tower).

A theatrically proportioned roof frames the pedestrian/car entrance. This transition space is a constructed perspective (rejecting any ideal viewing point), a reciprocal scenographic framing of inner and outer world. The hovering roof grows out of and connects the two larger shops. Logistics are critical – 18 m long lorries cross the piazza and disappear into the building.

The exaggerated scale of the wooden window frames in RS (which sells wooden furniture) are stacked like boxes (These 35 cm wide frames sidestep a local building regulation that prohibits wooden facades on retail structures). A dialogue between contained and container that continues in the interior detailing. Both structure (prefabricated concrete) and the materiality (fibre-cement panels) of the facades respond with an economic and systemized appropriateness to the ‘outlet’ building type.

City Hall Willich

typology: Office
country: Germany
city: Willich
year: 2003
competition: Invited Competition 2001,
First Prize GFA 2.630 sqm
client: Stadt Willich
photos © Christian Richters

The entrance to Schlosspark Neersen is framed by the parallel sides of the Schloss / City Hall and the new building for the City Hall technical Departments.

With its wide span-cantilevered canopy and transparent facade the new addition presents its functions like a building scale vitrine.

The enclosing back wall is in a discrete and modest industrial brick, in keeping with the suburban surrounds and at the same time a reference to the nearby Mies van der Rohe Haus Lange and Haus Esters.

Dom Quartier

typology: Office
country: Germany
city: Magdeburg
year: 2002
competition: 1997, First Prize
GFA: 48.000 sqm
client: NORD/LB
photos © Roland Halbe, Klemens Ortmeyer, Christian Richters, Edmund Summer

The extensive Square of Germany’s oldest Gothic Cathedral is framed to the east and north by Neo-Baroque (post-war reconstructed) Parliament and Chancellery for the state of Sachsen-Anhalt. The enclosure of the square is completed with these two new blocks housing a bank (Nord LB), Chamber of Commerce, offices, shops and restaurants.

The wider urban context is noble but battered and heterogeneous in the extreme. Only occasional fragments of the medieval or 19th century Prussian Administration city remain, marooned between socialist system built housing slabs. With German Reunification and the subsequent building boom Magdeburg like most east German cities was the recipient of a number of inner city shopping blocks and speculative offices competing in the free market rush with an explosion of out-of-town shopping and office boxes. In the subsequent economically depressed atmosphere the two new ‘Domplatz’ blocks represent foundation stones for a considered qualitative and long term investment in the culture of the city.

Two blocks are divided into three (three users) by the introduction of the ‘Bankgasse’ which bisects and animates the larger block, extends a Domplatz tree Allee and focuses on the neighbouring St. Sebastian. A compositional strategy of scenographic sequences (external and internal), and significant details (serpentine corners), rigorous geometries and poetic moments.

Volumetric stringency (a rigorous facade height of 20 metres and paired windows), are ameliorated by the patchwork texture and colour variations of the blue/grey stone facade (Brazilian Azul Macaubas). A haptic richness not unlike the irregular weathering of the 800 year old cathedral stones. Glazed and canopied Roof Pavilions set up above the rigorous parapet line a sequence of cross city vector relationships.

Systematized Office Interiors are interrupted by a larger sequence of movement spaces with light walls and material elaboration (Banking Hall, Atrium, Entrance Lobbies, Rooftop Restaurant).

ZKW/WVK Office

typology: Office
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 1999
competition: 1994, First Prize
GFA: 7.400 sqm
photos © Christian Richters

A building that inserts a new square in the plan of the City, in a zone of transition between monumental 19th century administration buildings and smaller scale row houses. Bisected by a commuter bicycle route, the ‘U’-formed office frames the ramped square. Bicycles punch a grand portal through the office facade. A laminated wood and glass facade gives the strict office layout a lightness and transparence.

The principle which animates this convention bound site and program is that of careful detail and a choreographing of necessity into an unfolding spatial sequence – entrance, movement spaces, meeting rooms. The whole adds up to a clear and precise urban insert, sculptural in its form,  both object and container.

Brink Centre

typology: Urban Planning, Retail, Leisure, Residential
country: The Netherlands
city: Hengelo
year: 1998
competition: 1995, First Prize
client: ING Vastgoed, Den Haag
Partner: Bureau Bouwkunde
photos © Gerard Kuster, Christian Richters

The Brink Centre co-opts the inertia of 15,000 sqm of shopping to instigate major surgery on the city plan of Hengelo. A pervading pragmatism is first evidenced in the relentless 7.8 m column grid of the below ground parking deck. An invisible logic which determines the geometry of the individual buildings above.

At street level the ensemble frames an urban choreography, a routing and a tying together of the overall morphological tissue. A different scale of urbanity to the modest post-war surrounds. A speckled ‘brick-mix’ gives a rich texture to the precise sculptural form of the housing.

The sloping silver trapezoid of the department store roof recalls through its semi-industrial character the factory around which Hengelo grew. This great aluminium umbrella is a 50 cm architectural wrapping of the neutral space of shopping. A folding down of the tectonic skin produces deep beams supporting extensive corner overhangs.

The 44 m Electronic Campanile is a sandwich of mass (white pre-cast concrete panels) between light and ‘light-emitting’ top and base (LED clock, video pavilion). Concrete is here also information carrier. The name Brink serialised and cast into its surface induces a controlled weathering, a planned staining, text dissolving into texture.

Bernhardstrasse

Apartments Bernhardstraße
typology: Residential
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 1997
Client: LVM Versicherungen
GFA: 4.950 sqm
photos © Christian Richters

A knitting together of street lines and block interior in a modest scaled residential district. The theme is more Vitruvius’ comoditas than grand or explicit architectural narrative. Street lines, precise boundaries between public and private realms are anchored with a solid dark, oil-fired, almost industrial and implicitly north German brick plinth. In contrast the upper floors in white plaster transcend this intentional massivity through their material and geometric abstraction. The two layers dovetailed together framing private terraces and necessary setbacks.

The 26 apartments are vertically ordered. Small units suitable for elderly occupants or studio apartments with garden below, the larger first floor apartments have generous balconies while the upper two floors are organised as maisonettes. An urbane facilitating of daily life is in the interiors and layout achieved with a reduced material palette – wood, stone, plaster.

Quay + Bridgewatcher’s House

typology: landscaping
country: The Netherlands
city: Rotterdam, Kop van Zuid
year: 1996
client: City of Rotterdam
photos © Christian Richters

Room 214 (Hotel New York) also has a central column and the letters V E N T I L A T O R stencilled in white on the mouse-grey wall. From here one saw the tower of the Erasmus Bridge float upstream (D) and take its place above the vaulted roofs of the Cruise Terminal. Next to the bridge platform a second platform was in the process of appearing – the BOLLES+WILSON Landing Quay – a table on precast piles. Here a basalt ramp negotiates, carpet-like, the 1.5 m drop from street to quay, then, in folding over the quay edge, it forms a beam spanning the underwater subway tunnel. An elevated walkway stands crane-like between street and quay, a hovering and framing urban edge, lifting visitors to a privileged panoramic vantage.

The quay terminates with another viewing machine. The Bridgewatchers’ House lifts choreographers of river traffic to a height of 12 meters (ship captains’ eye height) where they sit, backs to the Erasmus panorama, studying a digital harbour on radar screens.

Below the Bridgewatcher’s House stainless steel numbers are set into the quay surface: height below sea level (all important in Holland); a number puzzle (answer always 15); the abandoned and strewn about numbers of this decommissioned (shipless) quay. The permanence of this Garden of Enduring Numbers is answered at the opposite end of the quay by the Tower of Moving Numbers. These five LED boxes (time, ‘0’, temperature, random numbers, world population); caged cyber birds, useful and useless numbers, signal the dynamism of the new urban quartier on the Kop Van Zuid. After some years of enigmatic signalling, Renzo Piano was invited to build Europe’s biggest media facade immediately behind the Tower of Numbers. Soon after, either from modesty, shame or digital Alzheimer’s the LED boxes one by one slipped into glitch mode or dropped out of service completely. Although now regularly revived by diligent IT doctors the intended didacticism of this narrative landscape, a media-mass juxtaposition, has not lost its poignancy. In the meantime the five electronic rocks placed on the quay edge are regularly co-opted by ship-watching kids, also for wedding photos.

Dieze Training Centre

typology: Educational
country: Germany
city: Castrop-Rauxel
year: 1996
competition: 1994, First Prize
client: GEWO, Castrop-Rauxel
GFA: 3.000 sqm
photos © Christian Richters

A branch of the Open University Hagen and a Women’s Retraining Centre – shared conference and seminar facilities. Anchor box plus geometric extensions. The alien conference element cantilevers acrobatically. Strict plan geometries evolve a three dimensional language of interlocking materials.

WLV Offices

typology: Office
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 1995
competition: 1992, First Prize
awards: German Architecture Award 1996, Commendation
client: WLV
GFA: 7.200 sqm
photos © Christian Richters

The reflective surface of the ‘dark-green-glazed’ brick animates a monolithic self-focusing form. An ambiguous surface alternating between the reflected brilliance of the sky or the depths of black shadow. Mass is also the subject, a single building block in the urban fabric. A block further animated by the vectorial trajectory of the adjacent railway which instigates a facade curve and lean. A relatively simple slippage whose justification lies not in its formal but its tectonic resolution. Each brick course slips out one cm from the one supporting it. For the train traveller the WLV building is an event of a few seconds, its deflection perhaps only the effect of speed, its roof perhaps only temporarily hovering.

The three floors and 7.000 sqm of offices house a branch of local government that deals with the administration of psychiatric services. Shops on the ground and rooftop canteen-restaurant complete the sandwich. A specified planning module of 1.625 m results in a deep precast concrete fin on each axis, visible structure in unpainted concrete defining a window zone for heating, cable canals and glare blinds. From inside window frames disappear behind fins, to the south sun screens extend the internal ceiling line beyond the window. Systematised cellular offices are animated by contextual deflexions in the overall plan form, resulting in serpentine office strips, floating service islands, the ‘elastic plan’. Not high but low-tech is here and in the entire building thematized, the simple, the well made, the durable.

Dub House

typology: residential
country: Germany
city: Münster
year: 1993
photos © Christian Richters

A minor conversion, a correction to an elegant 1960s modernist Atrium House.
The principal element a Blue Glazed Brick Wall corrects a disastrous alteration and also breaks the tyranny of uniform ceiling height.
The second added element, a Zinc Clad Studio Box stands adjacent the Blue Wall. The two set up an external and internal play – geometric volumes – the abstract language of the plan respected and developed.
A very modest commission, careful details with the potential of enhancing the everyday lives of their users.

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