Emerging Architecture Awards

Honourable mention December 2004

Die Baupiloten

School conversion

Berlin, Germany
Die Baupiloten is a programme run by Susanne Hofmann to give architectural students of the Technical University of Berlin practical experience of building. Its first job has been the rehabilitation of the Erika Mann elementary school in Wedding, one of the poorest parts of the city and afflicted by over 50 per cent unemployment. The old building is a typical product of the Bismarckian welfare state, solid but most unwelcoming. The students decided to transform it into a fairy tale.
Working with pupils, parents (many of whom are immigrants) and teaching staff, Die Baupiloten converted the circulation spaces, corridors and stairs ( but not the teaching areas) into the imaginary landscape of a mythical Silver Dragon. The ground floor represents its lair in the forest. Green plants, aided by constant ultra-violet light, grow from the walls above fold-down steel furniture. On the first floor a new atmosphere is created between light, translucent veils of the ceiling and textile wardrobes. The dragon prepares for flight on the second floor, where bathed in pink light, elements reminiscent of wings fold down from the walls to provide small study areas.
On the top floor, the dragon is in the air, with writhing translucent light-filled ceilings and walls curvaceously sculpted to make benches, cupboards and seats. Institutional corridors have completely disappeared behind swirling light and colour. Going down, in the arches of the central walls of the main staircase, are devices that resemble small harps, so when children run up and down stairs, their fingers can strum notes that increase in frequency until they reach C sharp on the top floor. So the dragon not only flies, but it sings.
The jury welcomed the imagination and ingenuity of the transformation, but members were worried about the permanence of some of the movable furniture elements. But all thought that Baupiloten should be congratulated for a brave first effort.

Die Baupiloten, Berlin
Project team
Frank Drenckhahn, Johannes Gutsch, Gordana Jakimovska, Nils Ruf, Urs Walter, Susanne Hofmann