XML architecture research urbanism

Elevating Munich . Europan 10 . Munich


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The aim of this proposal is to provide a sensitive solution for the challenge of creating a public space on the limited tracts of prime inner city locations in Europe. The project proposes to accommodate the requested program in a series of buildings that fully exploit the limited space available on the Herzog Wilhelm Strasse. Seven low-rise towers, each with a specific program, incrementally expand from the small spaces at ground level until they meet at higher levels and go on to form a single roof. The panoramic roof plaza, which has been designed as a green area, forms an elevated addition to the interlinked network of Munich’s green open spaces and can be accessed by the public by the elevators housed in the “legs” of the building. As a new public space, the elevated plaza can become a platform for public activities that contributes to Munich’s cultural life.


Elevating Munich


Concept, relocating public space




Program distribution

Each tower is distinguished by its facade, which resembles the facades
of the adjacent buildings and the program that is organized in the tower. The homogeneous facade material unifies the various towers, but the variation in window types articulates the individuality of each tower.

Street level


The aim of this proposal is to provide a sensitive solution for the challenge of creating a public space on the limited tracts of prime inner city locations in Europe. The form and organization of the proposed architecture is a direct response to the clash between historic context and contemporary traffic needs. The Herzog Wilhelm Strasse location, wedged between one of Europe’s busiest streets and the Sonnenstrasse shopping area, craves an intervention that will both anchor the site in Munich’s historically evolved urban structure and transform the block into a unique area in its own right. Accordingly, the location could not only start a new episode in the discourse on the role of cultural heritage in urban planning, but also provide -- through architecture -- a contemporary conceptualization of ‘the European city,’ in which business, living, working and cultural needs are traditionally blended. By adding new, architecturally articulated public spaces to its urban fabric, Munich renews its repertoire of spaces that have given the city its position as a major identification space for contemporary urban society.


Today, the Herzog Wilhelm Strasse location is an unattractive, incoherent transit zone positioned between two separate shopping areas. The heart of the location is a gaping hole that provides access to an underground parking facility. The limited space that is left contains a number of ventilation shafts for the underground parking, a somewhat forlorn restaurant, and a gas station to one side. The volume for the requested program suggests the development of two or three mid-rise buildings. This implies a Faustian bargain: realization of the requested program in the limited space of the location would be detrimental to any kind of public space, while a serious effort to develop high-quality public space would eliminate the desired programmatic interventions. Clearly, the challenge for the new development is to achieve the requested program and at the same time enlarge the public space in such a way that it gives meaning to the location as part of metropolitan Munich.


Efforts to combine such disparate elements inevitably lead to a meaningless, nondescript compromise. Instead, this project proposes to accommodate the requested program in a series of buildings that fully exploit the limited space available on this location. Built on a scale that creates a dialogue with the surrounding area, each building has its own specific program: hotel, office, retail and housing. This multi-use program is not only the programmatic equivalent of the European city, it also links various groups and life styles to the site in a natural manner. The seven low-rise towers incrementally expand from the small spaces at ground level until they meet at higher levels and go on to form a single roof. This roof area becomes a new public space, which the public can access by the elevators housed in the “legs” of the building. The panoramic roof plaza, which has been designed as a green area, forms an elevated addition to the interlinked network of Munich’s green open spaces, such as the nearby green extension of the Herzog Wilhelm Strasse. The elevated plaza contains three pavilions: a café, an art gallery and a small lecture hall. As a public meeting point, the plaza can become a platform for public activities that contributes to Munich’s cultural life.


The proposal retains the ramp leading to the parking garage, the ventilation shafts and the gas station. The space in-between accommodates the “legs” of the buildings. Access points at street level to the programs at higher levels imply that the areas that were formerly urban no-man’s land can now be appropriated. A number of “legs” are to be used as small retail stores such as a newspaper stand; others house the hotel lobby, the entrance to the office block, and the ground floor level of the apartments. Thus, at each point where one of the towers touches the ground, the street is activated in different ways.


The towers have been staggered to create optimal sightlines in the upper levels, which can accommodate a broad series of typologies and usages. Each tower is distinguished by its facade, which resembles the facades of the adjacent buildings and the program that is organized in the tower. The homogeneous facade material unifies the various towers, but the variation in window types articulates the individuality of each tower.


With this paradoxical approach, in which the constraints of the location are considered as latent qualities, the seemingly incompatible ambitions of program and public space have been allowed to develop an unexpected symbiosis.


Project Name : 'Elevating Munich'
Location: Munich, Germany
Use: Mixed Use; Apartments, Hotel, Restaurant, Office, Gallery
Designing year : 2009
Status: Competition (Europan), honorable mention
Architect: XML





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