TOR ZUR WELT | Hamburg, GER 2015


For a site in Hamburg, at Baakenhafen -Hafen City, we developed a scheme for a highly sustainable housing blok for ‘Baugruppe Tor zur Welt‘. The project brief asked for an innovative, creative, sustainable and family friendly wooden building for 28 households. View to the river Elbe, noise influence of the harbour activities, flexibility of the floor plans up to the last moment, were to be integrated in a building with a maximum use of wood as the main building material. In collaboration with Frantzen et al we developed an 8 storey high wood-building with its own characteristic identity.

The question for an explicitly wooden building confronted us with an unexpected contradiction. Whilst Germany is known for it’s position on the forefront of sustainable design,  regulations are still conservative and limit the use of exposed wood construction in building interiors. If wood can only be used hidden behind cladding, it loses one of it’s main functions as a characteristic tactile building material which needs no additional finish.

We dealt with this by focussing our efforts for on a maximum efficient use of wood as a construction material for the interior, while the wooden identity of the building is expressed on the exterior. Here the quality of wood is used to create intimate individual outdoor spaces, that combined form the collective expression of the Baugruppe’s ambitions.

‘Tor zur Welt’ is clearly recognizable as a wooden building with large balcony construction on the street side of the plot. The balconies stretch over the full width of the building and are connected by a wooden diagrid that acts as a filter between the public, open harbor and the private outdoor spaces. Seen from street level, wood dominates the image while the construction is open enough to enjoy the view of the Elbe from inside the apartments.

The wide wooden balcony construction is the powerful collective image of the ‘Baugruppe’ but individual differences provide the building with the necessary nuance. The residents of ‘Tor zur Welt’ all have their individual needs reflected in the personalized floor plans and the infill of the facade of the building. Within an orderly rhythm of openings, the different frame modules show that the building gives space for individual needs and adjustments.

Floor-high façade openings can be filled with open and closed panels in order to connect to inner walls. Sometimes there are balconies on the east facade and at the west there are  openings  for loggias. Together with the shallow balcony this provide rich and varied outdoor spaces.

Construction: As the brief asked for a flexible floor plan lay-out with a great variety of apartment sizes, we introduced load bearing facades. This frees the plans of the necessary coordination of load bearing lateral walls and makes it possible to arbitrarily position the dividing walls between apartments. A concrete beam combined with concrete shafts and a core for elevator and staircases in the middle of the building, breaks the span between the facades. Combined laminated wood-concrete flooring elements span between the load bearing walls and the concrete beams/cores. The wooden flooring elements are left exposed as finished ceiling.

Flexibility:  The hollow concrete shaft always sits in the middle of an apartment. Bathrooms, storage and any technical installation can be efficiently positioned around it. This gives a maximum of freedom to the floor plan organisation behind the facade. The facade structure also allows different modules to be used within this system. Depending on the specific floor plan solution one can choose between a balcony, a window, a closed panel or a loggia to fill in and personalize the facade grid.


Design team: Marijn Mees & Uda Visser in collaboration with Frantzen et al (Tom Frantzen)

Year: 2015

Status: pre-qualified competition, 2nd prize

Client: Baugruppe ‘Tor zu Welt’, Hamburg | Germany

Programme: 28 apartments and studios

Size: 4276 m2

Budget: € 4.300.000

Renderings: MEESVISSER

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