The residential building at Admiralstrasse 16 is a new construction as part of the self built projects of the International Bauaustellung IBA Berlin 1987. Wohnregal or the "residential shelf" particularly stands out on Admiralstrasse due to its facade design in contrast to the surrounding Wilhelminian-style residential buildings.
[H]ConceptThe idea of DIY in building a new apartment in the form of a "Wohnregal" (residential shelving) was developed and demonstrated by architecture professor Peter Sturzbecher and his collaborators Kjell Nylund and Christof Puttfarken, on an empty site in the heart of the city. It offered an alternative concept to homes in the leafy suburbs. Instead of moving to the outskirts of a city, residents should stay in their district, and enhance the inner city as an urban and a socially diverse living space. The project became a model for IBA Berlin and urban housing construction where 12 individual apartments were stacked vertically over one another like houses in a house or what was dubbed the "Wohnregal" or residential shelving.
The framework for these shelves was produced from pre-fabricated concrete parts and timber, a modern, robust and affordable solution. The apartments were then built into the frame like shelf units. This not only brought the terraced house to the inner city, it also re-interpreted it as a new form of apartment. This Type of exposed construction had not yet been used in Kreuzberg.
It consists of the house-high firewalls on the side, in the middle of a U-shaped stairwell stiffening the building and two concrete supports in front of each. The concrete ceilings were inserted into this supporting structure, usually every two floors, since the residential units are laid out on two floors, like "houses in a house". The seven-story concrete skeleton was built by concrete workers, and the wooden structure was prepared by carpenters. Everything else was expanded as far as possible by the future residents.
A steel scaffold is hung from the building, which is used for greening and is intended for possible apartment extensions. The project was subsidized by state funding, the rent could be kept exceptionally low by the contribution of "muscle capital", which was three times their equity capital and the contribution to the cooperative, also from other sponsors.
A residential building in wood
An emphasis on wooden houses in Kreuzberg at first seemed like a strange idea. Almost everyone, including the experts, had forgotten that wood is a strong and durable material, similar to steel. Still others remembered the bad reputation that suddenly fell into disuse in the 19th century; Stone houses enjoyed more prestige, so the half-timbering was hidden under thick layers of plaster, especially in the cities.
With this building at Admiralstrasse, the architects reintroduced wood as a construction material. In the minds of many, wood was only romanticized for its warmth and coziness, but distrusted for its strength. It was only gradually rediscovered with this project, and was the reason for this building to be affordable. But this was not only because wood was cheaper, but because the building owners were able to do a lot of finishing work themselves. Architects had demonstrated the modernity of wooden houses in many projects, but it was always a single-family houses or groups of houses but with Wohnregal in Kreuzberg, for the first time, people dared not to row houses, but to stack them on top of each other, twelve houses, seven stories high.
Peter Sturzbecher knew the skepticism of the building authorities against the constructive use of wood. He made it his subject. The research report he prepared about it was immediately used for the new building regulations of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, then it also won the trust of the Berlin authorities, even that of the fire brigade, and ultimately the financiers. He explicitly did not want any special permits for his project but to make the system transferable and adaptable. In the end, his research got him the opportunity to build his shelving with the wooden houses as part of the International Building Exhibition 1984/87.
The architects imagined building the house with young people who feel at home in Kreuzberg. "We designed the residents ourselves, so to speak," says Peter Sturzbecher. He and his staff initially accepted everyone who was interested. Of course, that was much more than the houses planned. Everyone designed his own, got lost in his wishes, had himself corrected, cleared his imagination. Gradually more and more fell away, lastly twelve applicants remained for the twelve houses.
To finance their building, the residents turned to the tradition of the cooperative, and founded a self-construction cooperative, Selbstbaugenossenschaft Berlin e.G., in 1984, which also owned the apartments. It was the first housing construction cooperative for a joint new building project since 1945. The future residents, who were also members of the cooperative and contractors, were not only involved in planning, they also took the individual construction into their own hands. Self-construction was an integral part of the financing and reduced the overall costs significantly. As a result, each of the mostly two-story units had a different floor plan.
"Wohnregal" in Admiralstrasse was a daring experiment and construction took longer than anticipated. There were also disputes over the design and financing. Completed in 1986, it was one of the self-construction projects of IBA Berlin 1987. It is still considered a role model for architects, construction politicians and groups of builders.