Where blast furnaces operated until 1990 and then an industrial wasteland unfolded, new life is now moving in: On the historic site of the iron smelting works in the heart of Berlin-Niederschöneweide, »Wohnwerk« is being built as a family-friendly residential district on the bank of the Spree. &MICA is designing and planning five multi-storey apartment buildings with a total of 135 dwelling units as part of the new construction project on a site situated directly on the water. With set-back upper storeys and timber cladding, the multi-family residential buildings form the expressive centre of the new neighbourhood and complete the urban development along the southern riverbank.
The five-part ensemble, with its exclusive location between the river Spree and the neighbourhood park, consists of four polygonal freestanding buildings in a loose formation, flanked to the south by an elongated linear block. The buildings step up in height towards the water and are positioned at slight angles to each other, thus creating a rich variety of vistas to the river and within the community. The shape and height of the linear block is corresponds to the adjacent residential construction to the south and west.
The arrangement of the buildings results in a sequence of three courtyard-like outdoor spaces with a pleasantly inviting atmosphere. They form sheltered communal areas that create an identifiable place and facilitate access. At the same time, passage through the site in all directions opens up the property to the entire neighbourhood, promoting encounters and a communal spirit within the complex. Seating steps create exciting transitions between the neighbourhood and the public waterfront.
The design of the buildings embraces the idea of a flowing transition between exterior and interior. All the dwellings have either gardens on the ground floor or balconies or loggias on the upper floors. In the freestanding buildings, optimal daylighting is achieved through a pinwheel-like plan layout and the resulting two-sided orientation. The placement of the balconies at the corners of the buildings affords attractive views of the Spree as an identity-conferring element. The linear block offers similar qualities with its north–south orientation and balconies on both long sides.
The façades are articulated by horizontal bands of concrete and vertical greyed timber cladding. A slight twist to the position of the set-back upper storeys brings additional life to the ensemble.