A floating garden highlights MVRDV’s winning plan for Ettlinger Tor, Karlsruhe

Inspired by the historical growth of Karlsruhe in Germany, MVRDV has designed a masterplan for the Ettlinger Tor area that celebrates the city's central castle.

by STIRworld Published on : Aug 14, 2020

MVRDV took joint-first place in a competition for the masterplan of the Ettlinger Tor area in Karlsruhe, Germany. The winning proposal by the Dutch architectural and urban design practice seeks to develop the green cover in the area and restore a sense of intimacy, encouraged by the historical fabric of the city. The masterplan extends the “Via Triumphalis” that emerges from the Karlsruhe Palace beyond the Kriegstraße, and is accentuated by a “floating garden” that marks the former location of the city gate connecting the two ends of the city.

The floating garden marks the former location of the city gate | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
The floating garden marks the former location of the city gate Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

A city that originated when the Karlsruhe castle was built in 1715, Karlsruhe is largely organised around the principles of the “ideal city”. Its fan-shaped town layout evolved around the castle, resulting in an organic division of the city into halves - the southern end marked by densely packed blocks of the city centre and the northern end by parks and forests. MVRDV’s proposal weaves the distinct ends together by filling a void within the city blocks and inviting greenery to the south. “Karlsruhe is a city with a totally unique character. Our masterplan is both a continuation and a celebration of the elements that make it so special,” says MVRDV Founding Partner Winy Maas.

Aerial view of the masterplan | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
Aerial view of the masterplan Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

The winning project owes recognition to the city’s people and the intensive process of public participation, resulting in an urban framework that acknowledged the desires of the public. The design began by imagining the area filled with four-storey blocks matching the heights of the city blocks to the north. The blocks were then carved out to create courtyards, fit in established trees, and form city spaces like the plaza in front of the Badisches Staatstheater. The façade of each block varies in character, allowing building owners and stakeholders to add their personal touch to the district. MVRDV proposes the rooftops to be accessible with bridges and stairs, making it a densely planted urban park that contributes to the reduction of the urban heat island effect.

The roof forest | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
Evolution of the Ettlinger-Tor Masterplan Image: Courtesy of MVRDV/ Gif courtesy of STIR

The masterplan climaxes with a dish-shaped “floating garden” above Ettlinger-Tor-Platz that charmingly contrasts the Karlsruhe castle on the Via Triumphalis, which is now known as Via Trionfale. The structure conceptually “returns the castle to the city” by offering views across the rooftops of Karlsruhe that were once only a privilege of the aristocrats. The curved underbelly of the floating garden, containing a community forum and a hotel, is finished in mirrored glass to reflect a view of the skyline to viewers on the ground. The circular rooftop garden forms a miniature replica of the city’s layout with paths and plants imitating the 32 radial streets. The focal point of our masterplan becomes a monument to the city, to the buildings around it, and to the people that live there,” adds Maas.

  • The rooftop garden offering views to the cityscape | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
    The rooftop garden offering views to the cityscape Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • The reflective mirrored underside of the floating garden | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
    The reflective mirrored underside of the floating garden Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Floor plans of the floating garden | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
    Floor plans of the floating garden Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

The future of the district administration office of Karlsruhe - currently occupying an outdated modernist tower - was carefully considered to allow for a phased move to a low-rise block of similar area. The tower could then be renovated into residential apartments or be demolished and replaced. An alternative scenario suggests replacing the floating garden to accommodate the office in a new building hovering over the Ettlinger-Tor-Platz, after which the Badenwerk high-rise could also be modernised or replaced. The masterplan also reserves locations for the future addition of residential high-rises, bettering the area’s diversity in function to create a vibrant city centre.

  • The masterplan of Ettlinger Tor | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
    The masterplan of Ettlinger Tor Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • A sectional view of the proposed masterplan | Ettlinger Tor Masterplan by MVRDV | STIRworld
    A sectional view of the proposed masterplan Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

MVRDV won this competition along with Max Dudler Architekten, since both firms took similar approaches in a number of aspects. The district administration proposes to “superimpose” the two masterplans to create the urban framework for architectural competitions. A decision on the treatment of the Ettlinger-Tor-Platz will be made by the end of the year.

Project Details

Name: Ettlinger Tor
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Year: 2020
Architect: MVRDV
Client: Stadt Karlsruhe
Founding Partner in-charge: Winy Maas Directors: Sven Thorissen, Enno Zuidema Design
Size and programme: 106,000m2 mixed-use masterplan (office, retail, housing)
Team: Valentina Chiappa Nuñez, Alexander Forsch, Vanessa Mitteldorf, Evgenia Zioga, Nikos Margaritis, Stijn Lanters, Rocio Calzado Lopez, Isabella Suppa, Maria López Calleja
Visualisations: Antonio Luca Coco, Pavlos Ventouris, Angelo la Delfa, Kirill Emelianov

(Text by Ankitha Gattupalli, an intern at stirworld.com)

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