by Jerry ElengicalNov 01, 2022
Incorporating participatory design processes commonly seen in affordable housing or urban renewal projects into a mixed-use typology, Frizz23 in Berlin by German architecture firm Deadline has been touted as the first 'Baugruppe' (German for ‘building group’) cooperative for cultural and commercial space realised in the country. A powerful testament to the benefits of bottom-up development, the structure stands at a coveted midway point between the city’s Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum and the Friedrichstraße - a prominent commercial street at the centre of Germany’s capital. Bordering land that was once occupied by a wholesale flower market known as the 'Blumengroßmarkt', the neighbouring areas around the site had previously been home to an assortment of galleries, pop-up shops, retail outlets, and social initiatives following the city’s reunification at the end of the Cold War.
The site currently occupied by the building was the subject of Berlin’s first concept-based public land sales procedure, in the aftermath of the flower market’s closure, as local authorities resolved to forgo the traditional model of awarding the plot to the highest bidder. Instead, they chose to hand over the land (along with the accompanying task of redeveloping it) to the party that devised the most convincing and beneficial initiative for its context. This decision was bolstered by the efforts of FORUM Berufsbildung - a vocational training NGO based in the area - alongside the advocacy of citizens residing in its vicinity. The process itself stretches as far back as 2009, with the Kunst und Kreativequartier (KuKQ) workshops organised by local activists that yielded a development plan for the project.
Setting innovative precedents for designing from the ground-up, the endeavour saw the architects fill-in the role of developers, first determining the user groups that would benefit from the program’s goals and then enfolding them into the complex’s scope. As a result of this process, a collection of 32 small enterprises and non-profit organisations, under threat from Berlin’s gentrification and urbanisation, banded together to secure workspaces within the development.
Following this first phase, through constant engagement with local communities and projected users, the design team at Deadline - headed by Britta Juergens and Matthew Griffin - adopted a standpoint summed up as “First dialogue, then design." They pursued public participation in four more dimensions, striving to create a product that would first and foremost, serve communities - instead of solely raking in profits. Next among these stages was the land acquisition, where Frizz23 was one of three projects selected through a public concept-based tender. This trio of undertakings formed 'PxB' (Projektgruppe ex-Blumengroßmarkt), described by the architects as a 'network that worked to integrate the projects in the neighbourhood', with planned flea markets, festivals, concerts, and public discussions that would augment the cultural activities accommodated within the community building's office space.
Deadline then adapted the 'Baugruppe’ model - a tradition of community-oriented living and shared investment in construction where users work directly with developers to address their unique needs. The method has emerged from the landscape of Germany’s housing market in recent years, gaining renown for its participatory approach. Refashioning this concept for cultural and mixed-use office typologies, the architects worked with the stakeholders in a dialogue-based design process. As opposed to the conventional model of holding an architecture competition, a sequence of four workshops were conducted over an 18-month period, where every facet of the project was discussed and ironed out in conjunction with planning authorities, local initiatives, and external experts.
Considering its current status as a finalist for the EU Mies Award 2022, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, the success of this approach may be plain to see for all those that frequent the new structure’s premises. In fact, the building’s deft concealment of its complexity renders it not as a solitary volume, but rather, as three separate buildings bound together by dark bands of charred larch wood and anodised aluminium panels in midnight blue - which pop out along the relatively modest façade design. The panels themselves bear a reference to the planet Neptune, first discovered at the Berlin Observatory that once stood in the vicinity of the plot.
However, this seemingly utilitarian exterior hides a layered configuration of versatile spaces that cater to a wide assortment of user groups, accompanied by roof gardens and communal spaces that knit everything together. Spiral staircases wind their way in and out of the exterior faces, imbibing movement to the structure’s appearance. Deadline shares in an official statement: “The building’s silhouette expresses the project's complex mixed-use program and ownership structure, a city within the city.” The areas inside are equipped to house artists, musicians, bicycle repair workshops, upcycling studios, authors, illustrators, editorial staff, agents, and a gallery - all within a single envelope.
The staggered block of the building’s tripartite structure comprises three sections, with the five-storey FORUM Berufsbildung - containing seminar rooms and event spaces - situated on its western side. Adjacent to this, the middle volume has been segregated into custom units that function as creative offices. Finally, the seven-storey eastern mass is home to the development’s 'Miniloft' apartments as well as a café. Public spaces have been placed on the ground floor, which boasts a significantly greater height than other levels, housing areas that include a café, a bike shop, project spaces, co-working zones, and an up-cycling workshop.
Reflecting the diversity of uses that it contains, the building’s exterior is punctured by a multitude of openings in various sizes, each catering to the functions of the space it is attached to. Balconies follow the same template, as both these arrangements have arisen from clients being allowed to choose the size and location of their own unit. Hence, the floor areas of each office design can vary greatly: from 23 sqm at the absolute minimum, to 280 sqm at the opposing end of the spectrum. Certain units can even span two or three floors as per user requirements
On this note, Frizz23 was meant to represent the antithesis of privately-owned facilities managed by investor-owners from affluent sections of the creative class. Through an inclusive, vibrant, mixed-use program, it essentially aims to counteract the threat of runaway gentrification associated with the former model by providing platforms for education and training in creative fields to those from all economic backgrounds, prioritising these services as essential to the needs of local communities.
Location: Friedrichstraße 23, 10969 Berlin, Germany
Clients: Forum Berufsbildung eV, FrizzZwanzig GbR, Miniloft Kreuzberg GbR.
Gross Floor Area: 9324 sqm
Year of Completion: 2018
Architects: Deadline Architects Jürgens Griffin GbR.
Structural Engineering: EiSat GmbH
Building Physics: Flohrer GmbH
Building Technology: Plaschka GmbH
Landscape Architect: Planung.Freiraum
Fire Consulting: KLW GmbH
Construction Manager: Bollinger Fehlig GmbH
- Community Architecture
- Community Building
- Contemporary Architecture
- Cultural Architecture
- EU Mies Award 2022
- Facade Design
- Geometric Design
- German Architect
- Interior Design
- Mixed Use Architecture
- Mixed Use Building
- Office Design
- Spiral Staircases
- Urban Renewal
- Wood Architecture