Berlin’s inner city Moabit district is an area characterized by its dense perimeter blocks. It is here that Berlin-based Studio LOES has been extending and adding to two existing residential buildings from Germany's Wilhelmine Period (1890 – 1918) and post-war period. The project incorporates the construction of a new “garden house” (dubbed “Element”) on an inner courtyard that sits between the two existing buildings. In addition, these two buildings have been extended upwards with new rooftop apartments (dubbed “Lingot”).
Solving the challenge of creating new living spaces in a densely packed area, Element and Lingot are two concurrent developments distinguished by the use of wooden modules and prefabricated concrete elements, allowing for “a very efficient and ecologically sustainable construction method,” says Studio LOES. The project “sets an example for intelligent redensification (sic) in a confined inner-city space,” adds the studio. The work echoes the pleas of Italian architect and historian Vittorio Magnago Lumpugnani in a recent essay titled “Gegen Wegwerfarchitektur” (Against disposable architecture). In his essay, Lumpugnani calls for building less, dense, and more permanent architecture.
Element is a multi-story residential building that comprises five floors plus a stacked floor. The structure has a total of twenty apartments, including several maisonettes, measuring between 57 – 101 square meters (614 – 1,087 square feet) — Element’s gross floor area is 2,600 square meters (27,986 square feet) “The exoskeleton of prefabricated reinforced concrete elements ‘turned inside out’ forms the balconies of the apartments and transforms [external] stairwells and arcades into public areas available for use by residents,” says Studio LOES. By separating the circulation system from the building’s interior, apartments are freely arranged vertically and horizontally. With the building’s south-east orientation, spacious terraces and balconies on the east facade benefit from warm sunlight. Services are housed externally in the reinforced concrete skeleton, behind which sits a timber-framed facade with prefabricated windows and doors. On the interior, cross-laminated timber walls and ceilings act as load-bearing elements. The use of prefabrication reduced both construction time and noise pollution.
In the development of Lingot, roof extensions to the existing buildings complement Element’s development. Four new penthouse apartments, also built using prefabricated wooden modules and precast concrete elements, were placed on the flat rooftops of each building. Lingot contains a total of eight apartments that measure between 54 – 75 square meters (581 – 807 square feet) and feature extended balconies — the total gross floor area is 770 square meters (8,288 square feet) “The roof form reinterprets that of the ‘Berlin roof’ with variance in height and vertical slopes,” says Studio LOES. “In this way, both roof extensions blend harmoniously with the surrounding buildings.” Residents access the new apartments via an extension to the existing staircases. In both Element and Lingot, residents benefit from cross-ventilation and year-round sunlight. The two developments feature green roofs, photovoltaic panels, and heat pumps.
Studio LOES takes an approach to architecture that seeks to prioritize ecology and economy. Its principles include working with space-limited solutions, utilizing prefabricated, modular, and locally sourced components, and building for the long-term. With the Element and Lingot developments, the studio describes creating its “first prototype for the architectural handling of these principles, in spite of all the static, structural–physical, and planning law challenges.”