Anyone looking at Cologne from the eastern side of the Rhine will quickly notice an iconic building or two, most notably the cathedral, Groß St. Martin, the Hohenzollern Bridge and the three cantilevered crane houses. Among the historic structures rather rare for the war-torn city are former warehouse buildings along the Uferkai, some of which sit exactly between those so strikingly shaped skyscrapers at Rheinauhafen – the former customs and warehouse from 1898, for example, which was originally used to monitor the movement of goods and as a depot for oils, fats or petroleum.
In the meantime, its two northern buildings have been carefully renovated and recently redesigned by brandherm + krumrey for the Birkenstock Group’s branch in Cologne. The site is grandiose, situated between the harbor basin and Europe’s most famous river, atmospherically placed on a quay area of cobblestones including an old crane, the building facades of unplastered brick and light-colored tuff, partially equipped with polygonal corner towers. Large, dark-framed arches of basalt lava characterize the first floor, the second floor of the southern building has only small square windows.
On top sits a modern, two-story roof structure or seven additional floors, clad in gold-colored metal slats. 2,000 square meters of space comprise the total of five levels of the headquarters, open office space with around 150 fixed workstations and flexible workstations.
The historic halls on the first floor offer special flair, ideal for showrooms and a stylish lounge area, with Hall 11 in particular standing out: its 3.70-meter-high, unplastered cross-ribbed vault is supported by round columns of reinforced concrete, fitted with heavy neo-Romanesque capitals, and is an impressive reflection of the building’s architectural structure.
The interior designers made congenial use of the flowing space of the halls without dissecting it: Individual and team work or meetings were given glazed and enclosed boxes, combined with loosely set presentation furniture that doubles as storage space for office use and plant shelves.
The neighboring Hall 12 was also given exhibition areas combined with workstations. New Work tables were developed especially for the project, completing the ensemble of high-quality furniture and selected materials. Open meeting zones with seating groups and upholstered furniture extend the range – the office concept describes them as the “heart of the interior design”.
As designers, how would you define the term “New Work” briefly and succinctly?
Susanne Brandherm / Sabine Krumrey: We have been allowed to develop and execute the design implementation of the term New Work in our planning for about 15 years. In our view, the original meaning has almost outlived its usefulness and is simply no longer “new”. Agile working, free space and retreat, these are important parameters that are taken for granted in an office world today.
There is currently a lot of talk about sustainability: Do you have a basic approach to this?
The guiding philosophy of “sustainability” is currently being increasingly sharpened and anchored in the team. This is about clear facts, but also about feelings. Conscious, resource-conserving use of materials, inventory and planning – these are the essential building blocks in sustainable planning.
Is it possible to react to the home office trend in office design or should one clearly separate private and office interior?
We, as a team of brandherm + krumrey, do not understand working environments as the only place. The office is the home base for all of us, the place that offers us everything we need together. The home office is lived in the private space, visually is
|Client||Birkenstock Group B.V. & Co KG|
|Architects||brandherm + krumrey interior architecture|
|Project type||Modification / Reconstruction|
|Gross floor area m2||2.270|
|Number of employees||200|