BERLIN – In the most central municipality of the German capital, the borough of Mitte is one of only two areas that comprise former East and West Berlin districts. The neighbourhood encompasses the city’s historic core and is fairly standardised in its residential aesthetic. Aware of the area’s distinctive historical context, local firm NPS Tchoban Voss has broken away from the typecast to design a housing building with a rather uncommon external appearance.
The architect identifies the location as a ‘very special, authentic urban area’. Ackerstrasse 29 itself doesn’t quite seem to conform to the rectilinear appearance of the surrounding buildings but more-so the disorderly façade of Am Kupfergraben 10, a David Chipperfield gallery 3 km away (overlooking Museum Island), which occupies the footprint of a building destroyed during World War II. Both buildings sit at the corners of rows of traditional houses and contrast their immediate surroundings with detailed precision and mismatched windows scattered across the exposed elevations.
‘The vertically and horizontally aligned windows in different sizes are absorbing and reflecting the heterogeneous character of the neighbourhood,’ explains the firm. Each window is surrounded by a thick, white concrete frame and is significantly recessed into the structure of the elevation. This provides shading from direct sunlight and adds visual depth to the exterior aesthetic.
The four-storey building hosts eight residential units, plus a fully-glazed additional level for the penthouse. The ground and first floors include commercial units, with parking spaces included in the basement. In this way, Ackerstrasse 29 is a perfectly standard housing building. However, the street’s location adjoining Bernauer Strasse, the site of the Berlin Wall Memorial, means that it will never be separated from the historical context of its surroundings, despite its conscious effort to stand out from the prevailing grid-like aesthetic of the neighbourhood.