The Student Dorm Gets a Sweet Makeover in Berlin

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In both its mingling areas and private rooms, the G27 student residence in an old German industrial complex – redesigned by Macro Sea – delivers a lesson in clean, streamlined design.

By now students are really sinking into the fall semester, but some are more comfortable than others in their surroundings. At the new G27 student residence in Berlin, the backdrop to student life is full of history and creature comforts. Up to 200 international students from around the world – participants in the Council on International Educational Exchange, a study-abroad program – are housed in a building thoughtfully refurbished by Macro Sea, a developer based in New York.

The firm saved a relic – a century-old factory complex – in the eclectic and artistic Kreusberg area of Berlin to create the five-storey residence. It carefully executed interventions inside and subtly contemporized the exterior of the connected buildings, which frame tree-planted courtyards in both the front and back of the complex. The grounds were reworked with patterned stonework and terraced lawns carving out several seating areas, and dug down to allow more light into the basement level.

With flexibility and connectivity in mind, the 7,900-square-metre campus is a total rethink of the staid university plan. Common spaces emphasize learning and living under one roof. A large communal space at its core is outfitted with contemporary Danish pieces and works by local Berlin designers as well as arfully worn vintage and repurposed furniture. The room centers on a large wood-burning fireplace and bold contemporary lighting fixture with a large marble desk at the entrance.

The community spirit extends to student quarters, where large chef-style kitchens and lounges create a home-like ambience. Macro Sea’s choices in surfaces and layouts, along with the vibrant colour and warm textures, are not the usual institutional fare. The firm sees it as a vertical campus “where living, academic classes, dining and socializing co-exist.” 

Macro Sea’s design paid homage to the building’s past by leaving some of the industrial space raw and untouched while modernizing it with custom furnishings. Bedrooms are flexible in their configuration with pieces designed by Macro Sea; sleek wardrobes set on castors are outfitted with metal drawers salvaged from the original factory; angular metal and wood ladders access loft beds; each room has a private bathroom. The goal, says the studio, was “to provide G27 residents with an aesthetically driven and meaningful environment that connects them to each other, the past, and their future.”

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