Weilburg Terraces, German Building by ACME

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Weilburg Terraces

Architecture Proposal in Germany – design by ACME Architects

20 Oct 2009

Weilburg Terraces, Germany

Date: 2009-

Design: ACME, Architects

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Competition Brief

The historic city of Weilburg is dominated by a central castle, the castle gardens, terraces and protective medieval walls, which engulf and contain the city high above the Lahn river and its low-lying valley banks.

The city centre’s narrow, medieval streets wind their way up and down the hillside, flanked by an impressive range of modest to spacious houses constructed during Baroque and Classical periods. Despite the historic charm of the city, in order to accommodate modern traffic demands, an above ground parking structure was built in the 1980s to provide much needed parking space for Weilburg’s residents and visitors.

Standing in complete contrast to the city’s small-scale fabric, this concrete parking structure is highly visible from several popular vantage points within the surrounding picturesque landscape. As such, the parking deck is generally considered by the city’s residents and tourists as a disproportionate and ill-fitting eye-sore, tarnishing the otherwise spectacular views of the city from across the river banks. Nevertheless, the vital parking structure is in constant and frequent use, and provides the necessary parking capacity during the peak summer months.

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The city centre of Weilburg has suffered in the last decade as retail activity has shifted to the city’s outskirts, attracted by cheap rents, large flexible floorplates and an ample supply of parking spaces. In response, the City Council of Weilburg is attempting to strongly discourage this outflow of visitors and retail by offering new and improved retail and parking within the city’s historic heart. Through providing a highly attractive location with competitive modern amenities the city hopes to reactivate and regenerate its struggling core.

To facilitate this change, the city council has decided to demolish the existing Carpark “Am Rathaus” and to undertake a design competition for a replacement building that combines large format retail with doctors surgeries, higher value housing and more car parking than provided on site today. The new building needs to consider the following elements:
– The placement and juxtaposition of a large-scale building within the small-scale historic city centre fabric
– The preservation of clear views across the site towards landscape, terraces and walls; in effect the building has to be invisible from the city centre
– The “fifth elevation” of a roof scape and the open space’s contribution to the dense historic fabric
– The building’s integration with the landscape and medieval fortifications, especially when viewed from the surrounding landscape context.

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Project Description

The site is the largest continuous open space within the dense medieval city of Weilburg, where the stark and scenic contrast between the walled town and the surrounding sweeping landscape of the river valley remains clearly legible.

The design of the ‘Rathaus-Terraces’ originates from the Baroque terraced-landscape building typology, found nearby in the Weilburg Castle Gardens, and develops them into a contemporary form of landscape building.

A building as an integral part of the landscape allows the project to blend into the surrounding context while inviting inhabitation and managing to create specific urban character towards some if its city context. In this way, an active urban frontage can be created facing the old city centre, while the facade towards the river valley blends into the rhythm of rock cliffs and forested slopes along the Lahn river.

The project provides the required program of 19,200sqm of retail, surgeries, housing and car parking within a stratified massing, where vertical routes are carved in at specific moments to create connective visual sight lines and public routes between the city centre and river. In order to maximise activities within the project, functions like gastronomy and housing are dispersed widely within the overall massing. Access to each unit is provided through the new pedestrian cross-routes within the project and through lifts from the proposed public park landscape above. While the retail space orientates itself towards the city centre, the other functions differ in position and orientation to maximise south facing aspects, privacy and stunning views into the Lahn valley. The creation of new routes, public parks and a multitude of commercial and private programs ensures that the complex has a wide variety of uses, thereby maximizing its contribution to the regeneration of Weilburg’s historic core.

Similar to the strongly layered geological rock visible around the site, the building envelope is structured in horizontal layers. The fine scale of layers allows the envelope to change gradually from vertical to horizontal orientation, inviting different forms of use and inhabitation on its surface. The horizontally organized reconstituted stone fins filter daylight and natural ventilation to open areas such as corridors and the carpark while providing sun shading for other functions. Externally, the fins are used as steps, planters, benches and circulation spaces to create public routes and parks within the project. Variation of the fin thickness, spacing and position are used to form larger openings like entrances, balconies and windows where required.

Weilburg Terraces – Building Information

Location: Weilburg, Germany
Client: City of Weilburg/ Nassauische Heimstätte (Projektstadt) in cooperation with a private investor
Functions: approx. 6000 sqm retail, 2000 sqm residential, 1200 sqm Surgery/ Doctors Practices, and 280 parking spaces
Total GFA: 19,200 sqm
Project costs: approximately 15-19 Million Euro

Weilburg Terraces Credits

ACME: Julia Cano, Kelvin Chu, Sebastian Drewes, Deena Fakhro, Michael Haller, Daewon Kwak, Friedrich Ludewig, Isabel de la Mora, Andreas Reeg, Teresa Yeh

Weilburg Terraces Project History

Sep 2008
The “Rathaus-Terrassen” for Weilburg launched as invited competition by the city of Weilburg in Germany with an preselection process for the participating offices.

Oct 2008
ACME was selected as one of 13 offices to participate in the invited competition to design a replacement building for an existing carpark in Weilburg, Germany.
Feb 2009
Competition schemes submitted in Weilburg.

10 Mar 2009
ACME was awarded the 2nd price of the professional jury, and the Mayor announced his intention to realize the ACME proposal if the right investor and tenant can be found for the scheme.

20 Mar 2009
ACME was awarded the 1st prize of the voting public after a 10 day public exhibition of all competition entries.

Weilburg Terraces images / information from ACME

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