Closing the gap in Berlin: how to turn an infill into a success story
“From the day I opened my own practice in Berlin, vacant lots have fascinated me”, explains the architect Claudius Markworth. “In Berlin, the housing market is increasingly tight, although there is potential everywhere – and this never fails to strike me. It can indeed be tempting to turn urban open spaces, which are irreplaceable, into new housing developments. It has been happening to some extent, and yet in my opinion, it is wrong. There are vacant lots all over the place, and infills are a more sensible, responsible and effective alternative. Since I have a holistic understanding of my mission as an architect, the latter option is, literally, a no-brainer”.
Therefore, Claudius Markworth could not fail to notice a particularly promising vacant lot on Goltzstraße, a street right in the middle of the Schöneberg area. He immediately decided to find out who owned it. In a rather bold move, he then managed to convince the owner to put him in charge of an ambitious project. As it turned out, this would be a two-fold assignment. It included the energetic renovation of existing mid-century housing units belonging to the same owner and abutting the lot. As for the new building, it would consist of condominiums, with a shop on the ground floor.
An infill that has it all
“The opportunity was both unusual and challenging: I was now in charge of designing the best possible infill. I must admit that initially, the neighbourhood hardly shared my enthusiasm. But the way I saw it, this only added to the challenge”, comments Claudius Markworth. He adds with a smile: “Considering the situation, it came in handy that the Trespa cladding is highly resistant to graffiti”.
What upset the neighbourhood was the perspective of still another gentrification project. When it became clear that there was no such intention, the anger quickly subsided: the owner was, on the contrary, keen to minimise the rent increase, which would make it affordable for the current tenants to stay in the renovated building. The infill, though, would consist of sizeable (160 m2) high-end condominiums. Therefore, materials had to be valuable and durable.
A ventilated façade that made a lot of sense
Caudius Markworth gets into the details: “On the side facing the street, I envisioned a monochrome, dark façade, with a closed, smooth surface interrupted by single openings. The idea was to create a contrast with the contiguous façade, which has large balconies and bay windows. This choice, though, precluded an ETICS (External Thermal Insulation Composite System), since a finish in dark stucco would fraught with technical issues. At first, I had intended to use a fibre cement cladding. But when at a point, the Trespa® Meteon® panels caught my attention, it became immediately obvious – this was the way to go”.
For the architect, a ventilated façade with a Trespa® Meteon® cladding came with unique advantages. Made of HPL (High Pressure Laminate), the Trespa cladding is comparably thin (8mm) and thus lightweight. Accordingly, the load-bearing structure can be lighter as well. In addition, the cladding is extremely weather-resistant, long-lasting and resilient.
Claudius Markworth adds: ”For me as a designer, Meteon® claddings are also visually exciting. In this case, I played with two colours, both in satin finish – 135m2 in medium grey for the balconies and the loggias, and 410m2 in carbon grey for the façade facing the street”.
HPL cladding : a better choice in every respect
“The Trespa cladding has an authentic look and feel. In addition, the range of colours and finishes is outstanding. I like the fact that HPL is an ‘honest’ material. The cladding has a personality of its own; it isnot a make-believe product – it is convincing in its own, Trespa-specific way. Based on the cladding’s
many technical upsides and qualities, I finally succeeded in winning over the owner, who, being rather cost-conscious, had been reluctant at first”.
The design of the main façade is particularly sophisticated. At first sight, the various panel sizes may look random. They are not, as each seam between two panels is aligned with the frames of the various openings. Claudius Markworth explains: “I was looking for a subtle enhancement which would add an secondary aesthetic dimension to the façade: I wanted to play with the layout of the panels and the pattern of lines it generates. Trespa helped us minimise resizing to keep the waste low, and when we put the cladding in place, everything went very smoothly”.
Obviously, to be deemed a success, such a building development must meet the owner’s expectations. As Claudius Markworth points out, the owner ended up being “truly enthusiastic”. He values both the visual appeal of the new building and the fact that the Trespa Meteon® cladding has stayed durably beautiful. The building was completed back in 2011, and the facade is “still absolutely pristine”.
HPL cladding : a better choice in every respect
Ventilated cladding: Trespa is more than ever the solution of choice
“I have definitely turned into a true believer: in the meantime, Trespa has become one of my preferred options”, explains Claudius Markworth. “I’m currently working on a new project – a building from the Nineteen Seventies close to the Berlin zoo. Many apartment ‘blocks’, as we call them, dating back to this period are made of precast concrete modules in full floor height, and this one is no exception: each module consists of a load-bearing inner wall, an insulation layer and a protective shell with an aggregate concrete finish”.
“The façade has deteriorated so heavily over the years that we have to renovate it on three levels – structural, energetic and aesthetic. Here again, a ventilated façade with Trespa cladding comes with unique advantages. I have excluded an ETICS solution, as it would literally bury the building under a nondescript shell. On the contrary, the Meteon® cladding will help us preserve the specific character of the façade, while providing the required protection. And last but not least, it will increase both the perceived and the actual value of the building”.