MSometimes the most exciting things happen in the provinces. Not in Berlin, where almost all younger architects are drawn to, but in cities like Braunschweig. A house has recently been erected there in a way that has never been seen before: a fine pavilion whose construction is so filigree that one could think that a light sketch is just about to manifest itself here.
At first glance you don’t know how big the house is, you could imagine the abstract grid to be smaller or larger. Is that a luxurious, large private house, which stands on a small, idyllically babbling river, or a rather small public building?
The second answer is correct: The new house – the first designed by the architects Max Hacke and Gustav Düsing, who were just in their early thirties – is intended to create 1,000 square meters of space for around 160 students who will work, discuss, relax, together have breakfast and lunch, in short, will spend the day.
And if you take a closer look, there are some surprisingly good-looking answers to two of today’s pressing questions: on the one hand, how public buildings and spaces could be built in the future; on the other hand, how one can really build in such a way that the buzzword sustainability is not just stuck to the facade as a pale phrase.
At a time when it is becoming increasingly clear what a disastrous role the construction and operation of buildings play in climate change, with every new building, no matter how good it looks, there is always the nagging question of whether it should be built at all, and if so , then how. Even the architects’ interest groups now take a more critical view of construction than ever before.
A week ago, the Association of German Architects called for a “demolition moratorium”, the German Academy for Urban Development and Regional Planning emphasizes in its clever “Berlin Declaration” that “conversion and modernization must have priority over demolition and new construction”, and if then it should be built as resource-saving as possible and in the sense of the circular economy.
Which for many architects and politicians now almost automatically means: with wood. However, wood does not last forever and, viewed in the long term, may even be less sustainable in some areas than steel, which is often identified together with concrete as the main culprit in ecological construction.
Like an old Märklin kit
But is steel really always a problem – even if you use it the way Düsing and Hacke do? Your student house is completely demountable and modular; all beams have the same length and identical connections, everything is just bolted and not welded, which means that at some point you could completely dismantle it and bolt it back together somewhere else in a completely different shape.
You have to imagine the building as an old Märklin construction kit, the structural elements of which – here everything is composed of the same amazingly narrow steel profiles only 10 × 10 centimeters thick – can theoretically be reused for a wide variety of uses for centuries to come. Which in the long run is perhaps more sustainable than a dogmatic house built entirely out of differently treated wood. However, Düsing and Hacke also use wood for the suspended ceilings, which gives the building a pleasantly warm atmosphere.