San Gimignano Lichtenberg

Photo © Erica Overmeer
Drawing © Brandlhuber+ Team
Photo © Erica Overmeer
Picture © unprofessional studio
Lukas Beer, Thomas Burlon, Marta Dyachenko, Markus Emde, Olaf Grawert, Dorothee Hahn, Tobias Hönig, Maria Hudl, Janz Omerzu, Markus Rampl, Paul Reinhardt, Kristof Schlüßler, Peter Richter, Justus Schweer, Andreas Schulz (Pichler Ingenieure), Martin Steinert (hhpberlin)
Brandlhuber+ Georg Diez, Nikolai von Rosen, Christopher Roth

San Gimignano Lichtenberg is situated between a Vietnamese wholesale market and GDR Plattenbauten (prefabricated high-rise buildings). The two concrete towers, previously used as a silo and a circulation tower, are the remnants of the VEB Elektrokohle Lichtenberg, a state-owned factory for graphite production. After the Berlin Wall had come down, the site was abandoned until the late 1990s when the area was privatized to raise money for the city-state. The former production site was demolished; only the two concrete towers remained due to their high cost of demolition. The towers acquired their name from their lacklustre site. By associating them with the towers of the town San Gimignano near Florence, their perception has been altered using the power of narrative. The concept envisages the reuse of the existing towers with little effort and intervention, mainly focusing on returning it to a legal status and adapting it to the requirements of a new program, which aims at transforming the site into a new productive nucleus for architectural prototyping, that radiates to the surrounding area.

With their 46.85 and 42.60 meter heights, the towers are legally classified as high-rises and must therefore fulfill extended fire safety and energy conservation regulations. Additionally, the city wants to protect the area as a production site, so the new program for the towers must be adapted accordingly: the first tower will be used as a workshop for different industries such as 1:1 prototyping of architectural units, including accompanying spaces for archive, storage, and preparation, while the second tower serves as an unheated storage space up to 22 meters. To avoid high costs, the silo tower will only contain three levels: the ground floor, the first floor at 14.92 meters, and the top floor at 31.63 meters. By eliminating the need for extra technical equipment such as pressure ventilation and exit doors inside the stairwell, its window apertures must be left open, thus transforming the interior circulation into a semi-outdoor safety staircase. No new openings are added to the structure; instead, the closed ones are re-opened, which allows for more light and air circulation on the inside. The same reverence for pragmatism and economy applied to other decisions made during the design process, such as to make the space between the first and top floors accessible via an existing balcony and to install windows, but leave it uninsulated. The space serves as an insulating, semi-warm air cushion, blurring the boundaries between the interior and exterior of the building.

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