Social Housing in Cologne-Ehrenfeld


The plot along the Subbelrather Straße in Cologne-Ehrenfeld presents a break in the multi-storey street view by placing a parking lot close to the street and offsetting the supermarket further into the back




The design closes this current hole and continues the already present line of buildings. By incorporating the neighbouring heights it does not create a dark chasm and further enables more light to brighten the street by having the upper levels recessed by 3m (10ft). This is also used to gain access to the upper level apartments and give them a kind of “urban front lawn”. This cut in the cubature integrates the five storey building into  the existing structure.



A courtyard is now separated by a building front from the street and gives all 89 parties access to a private and semi-private garden. This courtyard is also important for the overall design: the arcade in the back connects to the street via the breaks that also serve as the main entrances for the whole building. They are clearly visible as such by being fully glazed, which also connects the courtyard to any arriving inhabitant on their way to their apartment.



The apartments themselves are designed in such a way as to allow the living spaces to connect to both facades, thereby opening them up. This allows kids to play in the yard with a certain level of supervision while also benefitting from a direct connection to the city.



The bigger apartments (4 or 5 rooms) are designed as two-storey-apartments to enable the residents – mostly families – a certain suburban feeling of owning their own little house. They are located in the back of the plot or on top of the front building by the aforementioned cut in the cubature. The apartments that are located on the upper levels and accessible by the arcade are also recessed to allow more sunlight into the courtyard and apartments.

Ground floor apartments also have their own private gardens while every other apartment has a balcony. Two-storey apartments also have bigger balconies to give the families more private space.


Industrial Charm in the Courtyard

Ehrenfeld’s history was shaped by the industrialisation. Like in many other cities this led to a very typical type of structure with it’s own charm:  brick buildings from the 19th and 20th century, residential buildings that are accessed via old industrial courtyards and a lot of smaller characteristics that shape a neighbourhood.



The design follows this image. On the city side the bricks strict grid orders the facade but on the inside towards the courtyard this is loosened by recesses and cuts. Smaller recesses in the facade also order it without relying on big gestures and allow for subtle shadow play over the course of a day.

This material choice is contrasted by the glazed main entrances that separate the long building into three parts and allow more light as well as views into the courtyard.



The continuation of these cuts is used for accessing the back portion of the buildings along a elevated arcade. It’s steel and wood construction further incorporates the industrial-rustic character that integrates the building into Ehrenfeld’s surroundings.

The arcade is also designed to be used as a terrace, so that the residents can enjoy their summer evenings close to their apartments but with a nice view over the courtyard.



This and more public areas in the courtyard invite neighbours to meet and relax – either on the green field or on benches. Kids can play while their parents watch as well.

The continued presence of the courtyard along with its greenery gives the residents a feeling of life within a small neighbourhood within Ehrenfeld.