Berlin-based studio Barkow Leibinger designed a brick apartment house that is capable of blending into its surroundings while maintaining a strong independent character.
Tucked away in the inner courtyard of a block in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, an unusual residential house has emerged. At first glance, the appearance of the house does not seem to adhere to popular current conceptions of context-driven building expansions. In fact, it is the end result of tight parameters stemming from building regulations and historic preservation conditions. Used creatively as design tools, these restrictions led to a building that seems at the same time both familiar and strange, capable of blending into its surroundings while maintaining a strong independent character.
A brick skin seamlessly covers the cubed volume produced via these limitations — from the vertical exterior walls, over the sloped facade and attic, up to the floor of the roof terrace. The bricks form the outer layer of a double-shelled construction. The exterior shell’s brickwork references Gründerzeit construction methods and the materiality of the front building’s street-side facade, while its color spectrum quotes the tones of the surrounding facades within the courtyard. For this, a Brandenburg brick manufacturer fabricated 20,000 bricks in a range of six different colors: from off-white and yellow to orange-brown, pink, and grey.
Along with the lively fabric of the brick façade, irregularly applied windows help to loosen up the strict geometry of this building that asserts itself as an unmistakably contemporary complement to the ensemble. Where the new construction meets the adjacent buildings, the windows orient themselves according to the sizes and proportions of those of its neighbors, eventually shifting with growing distance into square and horizontal formats.
The house has two residential units that are organized as multi-level apartments. The lower unit, about 250 sqm, is organized into a ground-level living floor opening onto a private courtyard garden, with bedrooms located on the second floor. The upper apartment, about 200 sqm, consists of four levels: two for living, one for sleeping, and a roof terrace. The common staircase, the internal stairs of the living spaces, and the auxiliary spaces and utility rooms on all floors are compactly condensed towards the firewall.
Apartment House Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
Program: residential building
Architect: Barkow Leibinger – Frank Barkow, Regine Leibinger
Design team: Andreas Lang, Antje Steckhan, Martina Bauer, Marian Beschoner
Structural engineering: HHT-Bauingenieure Ingeniurgemeinschaft für Tragwerksplanung + Baukonstruktion GbR
Energy design: Müller-BBM GmbH
Electrical engineering: HDH GmbH
Facade engineering: Dipl.-Ing. (TU) Karl Hügerich GmbH
Contractor: BAL Bauplanungs und Steuerungs GmbH
Area: 870 sqm