Since its foundation in the Middle Ages to the present day, Munich has tried on several architectural styles — from Baroque to Renaissance to Gothic. Throughout, one building material has stood the test of time: the humble brick. The Bavarian capital, part of a clay-rich region, was once famous for brick-making, and as such, it has become renowned for its masonry landmarks such as the fifteenth-century Frauenkirche cathedral and the Sendlinger Tor city gate. Now, in east Munich’s Berg am Laim district, a mixed-use development designed by New York firm HWKN, Frankfurt-based Holger Meyer Architektur and local studio Ochs Schmidhuber Architekten is reinterpreting the material in a contemporary way. The collaboration, which began six years ago as the team sketched on blank envelopes over beer, resulted in a winning design concept.
The 74,400-square-metre complex, dubbed Die Macherei (which translates to The Makery), reinvigorates the formerly barren industrial site of an abandoned Temmler Pharmaceutical Factory, which was once fenced off from the long-neglected neighbourhood. “The name Die Macherei clearly stands for what is happening here,” explains architect Fabian Ochs of OSA, “That there are very different companies that actually want to produce ideas. It is also a place for small companies simply starting out and from which new, larger companies may emerge.”
Six multi-purpose buildings now boast a hotel, offices, a gym and retail spaces, meaning 50 per cent of the site is publicly accessible. The HWKN-designed Scandic München Macherei hotel is a showpiece. Clad in rough, earthen-brown clinker bricks, the ten-storey hotel is defined by its stacked, sculptural façade, which brings a dynamic sense of movement to the complex.
But, for HWKN, designing a more welcoming urban environment was as much about the buildings themselves as it was about the space around them. “We like to say that we did not design buildings, but the space in-between — to draw people into a new neighbourhood,” says the firm’s lead designer on the project and partner-in-charge, Jessica Knobloch-Arscott. “Here we slightly offset all of the buildings in order to create a much more authentic and intimate inner-city European experience that offers people space to relax, engage, and work.”
To that end, the architects carved a pedestrian canyon through the buildings, cracking open the buildings’ geode-like structures to reveal a vibrant pop of red-orange colour — and open-air, elongated plazas — within. While Munich, like many European cities, has strict laws about setbacks between buildings, Die Macherei was conceived as “an urban design that puts people first and rules second,” according to Jessica Knobloch-Arscott, in order to foster a high-quality public space.
“One solid building would be daunting and very unwelcoming to those in the neighbourhood,” explains HWKN Founder, Matthias Hollwich. “We simply lifted that section up and out from the model, thereby creating the possibility for a people-filled canyon. We introduced life and place to the community.”
Across the canyon from the Scandic hotel is a gym with office spaces above, while a second HWKN-designed office building is clad in the same glossy red-orange brick as the canyon, bringing life into the complex. The design move proved to be a popular one, as it was the first of the buildings to be leased. Two loft-style buildings by Holger Meyer Architektur, inspired by industrial buildings of the Wilhelminian era, host additional offices and retail spaces. Ochs Schmidhuber Architekten, meanwhile, designed a 15,000-square-metre building that serves as a creative incubator and co-working space.
Though the six buildings are designed by different architects, they are unified by a shared visual language that reinterprets their industrial context. On a site that was once closed off, the new buildings — complete with social rooftop lounges and the lively circulation route between them — have defined public spaces that foster a sense of community to create happy, healthy and inspiring spaces to live and work.
The mixed-use development designed by HWKN, Holger Meyer Architektur and Ochs Schmidhuber Architekten is organized around a colourful pedestrian “canyon.”