Highly commended

Sauerbruch Hutton

GSW Headquarters

Berlin, Germany

December 2000

The GSW building is an important chunk of the new Berlin. It is on Kochstraße, part of Friedrichstadt, the Baroque inner city, just south of the great streets and squares of the centre. The whole area was bombed to bits, then languished in a limbo caused by the Wall. A solitary tower stood well back from the road (which was to be widened). The architects were asked to make a new headquarters for Berlins largest housing association, and seized the opportunity to try to return the site into conversation with the remaining fragments of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cityscape. A low building on Kochstraße returns the street to decency; new small public spaces and mixed uses make the place an important constituant of the rejuvenated city.
Many new German buildings have lessons to teach about energy efficiency, but the jury was impressed with the originality of the schemes strategy. A thermal flue is created in the double west wall of the slab block which spans the two main low-rise blocks; its plan is narrow to maximize daylight use and natural ventilation; the facade is carefully shaded to reduce solar heating in summer, and a wind roof assists natural ventilation. In winter, the mechanical ventilation system feeds back heat from exhaust air to the central plant.

Contact: Louisa Hutton, Sauerbruch Hutton Architects
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