Improving conditions in a socially problematic urban district through design
Every German city has them: dusty old housing complexes dating from the nineteen-fifties that were erected in ribbons which already then were not able to offer much more than cheap housing space and rambling, yet unstructured open spaces without much ado.
The housing complex at Buchheimer Weg in the urban district of Ostheim in Cologne is a good example for this. Today, two generations after its construction, there are many other old housing complexes that need to be technically renovated. This presents a good opportunity to rethink their concepts to make them suitable for contemporary times and contexts. In doing so, the goal is to retain existing cost-effective structures for low- income groups while creating new qualities in terms of urban planning, open spaces, the architecture and interior design.
The client is a large non-profit building society. The design for the new housing complex proves that the benefits provided by ribbon development, such as good lighting, ventilation, and orientation, can be retained while simultaneously creating new high-value urban spaces. The design for the housing complex at Buchheimer Weg is significant in that it aspires to serve as a model for other complexes of its kind, both in Cologne and elsewhere.
This may not be surprising, as it offers much-improved spatial qualities as well as graded open spaces. It turned out that demolishing the complex and building anew on the site was economically and aesthetically more sensible than elaborately refurbishing the existing buildings. The designers introduced a bend in the middle of the rows so that two rows run towards each other while two others run away from each other.
This seemingly simple intervention leads to enormous improvements: the spaces in between the rows are loosely enclosed without creating the problems associated with perimeter blocks. As such, lush courtyards and semi-public ones alternate with each other, allowing residents and visitors to appropriate them for themselves.
It also became possible to significantly raise the density of the housing complex without adversely affecting its spatial qualities. In total, 434 apartments, consisting of 18 buildings were built. The tonal gradations are spread over the entire urban quarter, changing from a lighter green tone in the northeast to a darker green in the southwest. The low subsidized rent levels were able to be retained.
The residential quarter was supplemented by lively infrastructural facilities such as a tenants, cafes, office spaces that are close by and a three-stream daycare center. Domestic life is enriched by a hall of residence for disabled people and a living group for people suffering from dementia. The design proves that the living conditions in a socially problematic urban district can be improved and urban developments of the post-war period complemented by new qualities that employ simple methods.
Client GAG Immobilien AG, Cologne Planning and Realisation Competition 2005
First Prize Planning 2005-2010
Realization in three stages: 2007-2012
Dimensions GFA: 51.600 sqm