Imagine studying in the heart of Europe while living a rich social life, feeling connected to the environment and local history: This is what the newly opened buildings of Bard College Berlin offers. Located in the leafy Pankow neighbourhood of the German city, adjacent to Intelligenzberg Park, the German-American liberal arts college has collaborated with development and project management firm DBI Projects and New-York-based architecture and interiors firm Civilian for its student residences.
The 39 apartments situated on the upper floors — home to 120 students — and the café, lounge and study areas on the ground floor are nestled in two twin buildings aesthetically influenced by the Berlin design scene.
Set perpendicularly on a corner lot, the arrangement of buildings creates a courtyard that becomes an informal social hub while incorporating all rainwater runoff into a series of gardens with drought-hardy indigenous perennial plants.
The objective of this project was to design “a dynamic new gathering place that facilitates the exchange of ideas on campus”, says Civilian’s principal and co-founder Nicko Elliott. “Our goal was to create a range of convivial public lounges across both buildings for individual study and collaboration while designing flexible private living spaces for maximum comfort and personalization.”
The Civilian team was inspired by Berlin’s legacy of developing the progressive housing estate during the Weimar era (1919-1933), as well as German architect and urban planner Bruno Taut and the Metropolis-era masonry expressionist architecture of the 1920s. The 1970s Neo Bauhaus architecture of the surrounding neighbourhood was also one of the influences for this project.
From there, the designers reinvented contemporary communal living and introduced bright colours in the interior spaces. Made with minimally processed and sustainably harvested materials, the refinished, vintage and custom furniture — which references the pared-down utility of 1920s pieces by Dutch designers Gerrit Rietveld and Ko Verzuu, as well as artists Donald Judd and Andrea Zittel — perfectly combine.
Comprised of several study nooks, the public areas foster student learning and social exchange while the multifunctional private spaces optimise comfort and storage.
“The project shows that functional student housing can tackle sustainability concerns, be aesthetically advanced and act as a community and social hub all at once”, says Taun Toay, managing director of Bard College Berlin. “Designed with a nod to both Bauhaus and the ‘Kreuzberg brick’ in their modern facades, these highly energy-efficient units aim to honour the past while fully incorporating today’s environmental requirements.”
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