GRAFT was commissioned as a general planner to develop an innovative new work office campus on the site of Berlin’s former Wriezener Bahnhof railway station.
During the GDR era, the residential buildings that had survived World War II were demolished and the area was redeveloped for commercial use, with the last tenant being a large-scale industrial furniture store. Today, most people know the site because of its prominent neighbor, the internationally renowned techno club Berghain.
Now, the area is set to become the site of a new urban quarter. The Wriezener Karree will be the first block in the development and thus crucial for identity generation. Planned mainly to be an office building, it will feature an additional mix of small-scale businesses on the ground floor, consisting of small retail units, gastronomy, supermarkets, and sports facilities. These amenities will lend a new urban identity to the wider neighborhood, which until now had a pre-urban, commercial feel.
GRAFT divided the desired program volume into three buildings on the roughly 14,200m² plot. A diagonal passage between two city squares will create a public thoroughfare and link the site to the adjoining neighborhood. This passageway will form a connection between the Ostbahnhof train station—a main regional infrastructure hub— and the iconic Berghain building and its surrounding green space.
A series of publicly owned plazas and privately donated public spaces will create a new urban choreography, forming the “backbone” of the new quarter and ultimately connecting the area with the vibrant neighborhood of Friedrichshain to the north.
On this block that will be the first to be developed, a green landscape will unite the three buildings, creating a lush urban oasis in their inner courtyards—in an environment still heavily influenced by industrial and commercial uses. A landscaped bridge will cross the diagonally intersecting “broadway” and create an exciting floating garden above street level. The large circular opening above this passage seeks to let in light and create visual connections.
In line with the revolution of workplace behavior in the New Work generation, the main goal was to create innovative environments with a focus on flexibility. To break down the large urban volume to a human scale, GRAFT divided the program into individual “working neighborhoods,” making the buildings appear as a collage of stacked houses and reducing the visual impact on the surroundings. The individual units can be deciphered as forms of personalized identity per cubic volume and reference playful and organic narratives on this former train yard site.
The intentionally inexact arrangements of the neighborhood building blocks create areas of “in-between,” where special communal functions and collaborative programs of the working campus are located. These empty spaces are places of encounter within the fabric of this complex, allowing for movement and participation, communication, and interaction. Each office unit has its own private void. They create meeting points, informal spaces for communication and serve as connecting elements between the floors and units.
The appearance of the stacked boxes references the scale of Gründerzeit parcellation, relating to the narrative of the site’s former industrial character, and has a rigorous and effective organizational structure. In contrast, the voids are lighter and more artistic in their design, thus conveying the inner life to the outside.
To address the topic of mobility, the project envisages a separate underground bicycle lane. With attractive, prioritized access for cyclists, independent of car traffic, the design will promote the use of bicycles as a means of transport among future users.
As well as the focus on innovative working environments and user comfort, great importance is attached to sustainability: a coordinated energy concept was developed in collaboration with climate engineers from Transsolar and a high-level LEED certification is being sought.
Martin Bernard, Lorenzo Cristoforetti, Natalie Dillon, Benjamin Goern, Jacek Jara, Harpreet Kaur, Sebastian Massmann, Philippos Michael, Marco Migliavacca, Javier Nieto Cano, Veronika Partelova, Marta Piaseczynska-Karaivanov, Ana Lopez de Rego Curros, Primoz Strazar, Lorenzo Javier Simón Santillana, Laurent Thill, Ivan-Felipe Ucrós Polley, Camila Vieire Préve, David Wehrmeister, Philip Weibhauser, David Josef Wurth, Cansu Yücel, Bojan Zdravkovic