Project voice:

TORSTEN GLASENAPP AND TOM WERNER

Video Interview

Torsten Glasenapp is Deputy Managing Director at Müller Reimann Architekten, one of Europe’s largest architectural firms based in Berlin. They handle all types and sizes of projects. Together with Tom Werner, one of the project managers at BERLIN DECKS, he explains to us their approach to innovative projects and why BERLIN DECKS will be a signpost for the workplace of the future.

Introduce yourself and your mission in under 30 seconds:

My name is Torsten Glasenapp, Deputy Managing Director of Müller Reimann Architekten, next to me Tom Werner, one of the project managers of BERLIN DECKS. We are an architectural office with 70 employees, we work on projects ranging from kitchen remodeling in Mecklenburg to high-rise buildings at Frankfurt’s Taunus Anlage: Germany-wide and Europe-wide but the majority of the projects we work on are in Berlin.

Our mission, in a nutshell, is to help make this campus a distinctive place on this site, but at the same time one that will fit into the city and become an integral part of it.

 

Which of the two words “Grow” and “Together” means more to you, and what does that mean to you personally?

Mr. Glasenapp: I think it’s about “Together.” People want to communicate together, live together, work together, develop ideas together and implement them. That’s how places are created, that’s how cities are built. And these places develop an attraction for other people with other ideas. In this respect, “Growing” can never be the goal, it is only the consequence of successful cooperation and living together.

As a resident of this city (Berlin is, after all, a city that has developed extremely and grown a lot in recent years), one is a witness and user of this development. As an architect, we are allowed to participate, and in this understanding of growth as the result of successful togetherness, we are pleased and happy to be a part of it.

Change is constitutive in a city. This is truth for every city, otherwise it would die slowly, but Berlin is of course extreme when it comes to change. Due to its historical development, change has certainly not always had a positive connotation, but I think that since reunification, the developments here in the city have been impressive in various stages. The city is developing and becoming more dense. Nevertheless, compared to other metropoles, and this is the big difference, there are still open spaces and places in the middle of the city that still have extreme potential. And I think the BERLIN DECKS on Friedrich-Krause-Ufer is one of these places that have such possibilities in the middle of the city. I don’t think you can find something like that in any other city.

 

BERLIN DECKS is being built on a site in Berlin that was historically shaped by industry, right next to the Westhafen and the working-class district of nearby Wedding. Now a vision of working in the future is being created at the same location – What does that say about the city and its transformation?

Mr. Werner: As a result of this structural change and increasing digitalization in Berlin, industry is increasingly migrating to the periphery and this is creating an enormous potential here which needs to be dealt with. At the same time, new forms of work are emerging that combine production and office activities. This is something that traditional office locations cannot cater for. Now these old industrial sites are coming up with lots of potential and offer great opportunities to generate new forms of work there.

 

Office work has been changing for decades with digitalization – so what does an office space of the future need to promote in particular? So what kind of work have you designed this place for?

Mr. Glasenapp: The essential thing here is that work is thought in such an integrative way that it is not simply office and production, but that a mix of different industries can come together here in a way that is otherwise not possible on other sites because they do not structurally offer these possibilities.

We are planning 8-meter-high halls here as a prototype in which you can produce, in which you can do training and in which you can hold large presentations.

At the same time, there is a wide variety of workspaces above it, which always have a very close connection to outdoor spaces. It’s an idea of working that no longer assumes that you come here and specialists pursue their activities, but that consciously seeks exchange. Not just within the individual office unit, but on the campus, and that the things that are thought up can also be implemented immediately – in the halls, on the first floor, and with this concept of the testing ground in the middle. So that everyone can also participate, i.e. work that is less of a competition and more of a cross-fertilization.

Mr. Werner: Workplaces should no longer be thought of in such a static way that the pure location and the site form the criterion, but that the direct working environment is increasingly coming to the fore, so that you promote networking, create communication spaces and exchange It means you don’t have to be static at your workplace any longer, but we create spaces in which you can work anywhere.

 

Can you tell me more about this Testing Ground?

Mr. Glasenapp: We have been trying to discuss the Testing Ground for a long time. It is already different from the classic workshop. A workshop is in itself always a place where also the delivery and all those things, that industrial work entails, happen. This project groups the 3 halls: A Fides building is not a very clear hall building but it has on the first floor similar structures around a common courtyard, which is deliberately kept free from the disdainful activities of the delivery of the large vehicles. This courtyard is also landscaped, which is not usual in a classic commercial courtyard. Trees will be planted there, giving it a completely different quality of life. Of course, it will be accessible, you can test your prototype there and present it, you can hold press events there. Of course, it’s the outdoor space of the people who work here, but this Testing Ground will only become a campus with the DECK, which connects the buildings with each other on the second floor, which also connects people collectively.

Mr. Werner: It also shows a bit of the experimental nature of the project. Testing Ground always stands for trying things out. It also stands for the users’ sense of mission: something is not being produced on an assembly line in a quiet room, but something is being tried out, something is being developed and this should then also be shown. So you need an external impact.

And that’s what this Testing Ground is supposed to do. People should roll things out of their production halls and show them. That’s the difference between this and conventional production.

 

Sustainability and growth come together here programmatically – how can architecture contribute to a place combining these aspects?

Mr. Glasenapp: No matter how sustainable a building is, constructing it is an extremely energy-intensive process. That means that when it’s there, it should stay there and be used for a long time. The structure of the building and its entire craftsmanship should be designed in such a way that the building can be used in 30-40 years, perhaps in a completely different way, but still with pleasure. You can look at all the industrial buildings from the 19th century, where people still like to work and live today. The use changes but the buildings remain very powerful and strong – and that is an essential aspect of sustainability.

Mr. Werner: That was also the challenge in this project, to first find a structure that meets these usage requirements. It implies the construction method and materiality as well as the requirements of the city and many others.

It is always important to find a balance with the desire to build sustainably.

 

Every architect wants to change the world a little: What is the change you want to initiate through BERLIN DECKS?

I’m not sure that change in itself is a value, I think there would have to be a bit of improvement as well. That’s certainly something that applies not only to architects, but to anyone who has a certain commitment to their profession. We have tried to make that clear: The BERLIN DECKS is an extraordinary project in every respect, in fact a prototype. It redefines an urban space, a neighborhood. It is an architecture that integrates not only interior spaces but also exterior spaces in a special way. It is a façade that refers to historical models but was nevertheless developed in a completely individual and contemporary way, and in which the materials nevertheless have this reference.

There are a wide variety of spaces and possibilities in this project. It is an exemplary project in the best sense, which will also inspire other people to think in this holistic direction. Of course, we as architects didn’t do it alone, because you can only do that with the corresponding client, who also wants it and develops it together.

Mr. Werner: It’s also nice for the quality doesn’t just remain on the inside, but also radiates outward, so that qualities are developed for the neighborhood. Ultimately, this testifies to the actual quality of the building and to the upgrading of the urban space, and that is our aspiration as architects.

The interview was conducted by Svea Fina.

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