In the roomy loft office everything has its place. In general there is a feeling of relaxed concentration which also infects the conversation. But when the project leader brings over a board with outlines of buildings on it, things liven up. It’s all about individual solutions within tight time frames, big ideas which must keep their feet on the ground, it’s about a lot of money and even more important: it’s about what people will call their home.
Trust is important when you want to carry out big projects together. Mr Pangert, have the two ever let you down? cp: No (he laughs). We are working on a big project at the moment: we’re building a 10,500 square meter area in the centre of Bonn-Auerberg. 112 flats and retail shops along with a library are to be built here. I’ve been steering this project since December 2013. We started building in April of this year. A very tight schedule. So it was important to me to get reliable architects on board early on. That’s how this cooperation with Phase 5 started. And I defintely can’t say that they’ve let me down – on the contrary. vb: We had finalised the most important parameters within three weeks: designed the first floor plans, handed in our calculations to be able to estimate the framework. Normally you need about 6 months for that. mw: Our offices aren’t very far away from each other so we made fast progress. When a plan was ready we could have a quick meeting and clarify details. I know of examples where they wait for weeks just to get a confirmation that the request has arrived. cp: As project manager I checked what has to be realised from the economics side and Phase 5 developed an individual and functional architecture. That all went hand in hand. For some weeks it seemed as if we had amorphed into one company, although of course there are two separate firms which for a while were working as one team on a project. The site in Bonn-Auerberg was wasteland for years. Why? vb: They said the area wasn’t marketable and building on it was deemed uneconomical. cp: There were old plans which showed the site was to be used for housing and retails businesses in equal parts. We took it from there and decided that only 14% of the site should be used for retail businesses and 86% for flats. In the end probably a drugstore, a textiles chain, a library, a restaurant and a Post Office or bank will open up in the ground floor. mw: It’s a horse-shoe shaped building with three storeys plus a setback top storey on the one side and four storeys on the other. In the underground car park there will be space for 115 cars, so that the space in the centre can stay car-free, which of course increases the living quality. Apart from that there will be spaces for 305 bikes. vb: The gardens of the ground floor flats are 80m². There are also small verandas with gardens to the street side. On the setback top storey there are several penthouses with roof terraces. You can reach them by way of one of the 12 lifts as the whole complex will be wheelchair accessible. Building started in April. Were you nervous at the beginning considering the tight schedule? cp: With projects of this size it is necessary to stay objective. There are certain milestones you work towards, while keeping the final goal in view. Of course you have to live with the unexpected, that’s the way it is when you’re building. On paper you can’t see what the final object will be like. During the planning there are ifs and buts. Taking that into consideration we’re happy that we’ve been able to keep to our schedule so far. Public perception has become used to thinking that that doesn’t happen very often in the building industry. cp: Yes, of course, people immediately think of the Hamburg Philharmonic or the airport in Berlin. vb: These are politically desired buildings. Architects and project planners did calculate the costs. But that had nothing to do with reality. Maybe because the public was never meant to discover the real costs of the projects. I think we can learn a lot here from the Anglo-American regions. Before building starts the main contractor and the architects steering the project check all parameters. If that is done well, then it’ll work.
“With simple means but a well thought-through design, you can achieve a lot“
How did you manage not to go over budget in Bonn? CP: The trick is to combine the functionality and quality of the architecture with the business side of things. To do that you really need a lot of agreement, discussion and also tolerance for ideas. We can see that for example in the design of the facade. The architect’s aspiration is: a facade should be attractive, appealing, not monotonous and at best fit in with its surroundings. And of course at the same time it has to be affordable. So more of a standard facade? CP: No, exactly not that. What we want is individuality paired with economic thinking. An architect’s office has to combine these things in its designs. So what kind of facade will it be? MW: A plaster facade with a brick base. It was important for the rooms of the retailers that we used robust materials in the ground floor, which won’t crumble or become weather-damaged and also offer protection against possible vandalism. We took this wish into consideration without losing sight of the overall concept. As architects we have a stance as regards the buildings we design. In this case we were thinking about clear forms and proportions. In the end the building should have a certain naturalness about it so that people say,“ I like living here“. It wasn’t about creating a big show as the architect. VB (he goes to the plans in his office) Directly next to the area we can see windows which look like slits. Why don’t they just put in windows? That’s totally over the top. A house is still a house, not a bunker. It was important to us to work with materials that have stood the test of time for centuries. When you look out of a window, you should be able to see something – if possible green areas. CP: With simple means but a well thought-through design, you can achieve a lot. You can see that in another detail: in the ground floor where the retailers are we have 4.60 m high ceilings, in the flats only 2.6m. To compensate for the height difference we lifted the ground floor flats a little. This has the advantage that the front gardens are slightly above ground level so that passers-by can’t watch you when you’re having a barbeque. On the other hand there are vertical lines opposite the offices due to the raised level. So the feeling of the whole building is calm and balanced. MW: Another example for something that should be totally normal but isn’t: all the living-rooms and kitchens look out on to the market place and areas which have to be protected, like bedrooms and children‘s rooms look on to the inner courtyard. CP: In the end, in spite of our different perspectives, the architects and I as project leader have the same aim. We want to realise projects where in the end you can say, “THAT is a beautiful building you can live well in. And look, we built it.“ Apart from economics that is a very decisive aspect of our work.
Carsten Pangert, 44, is the managing director of an SME from Düsseldorf, which also acts as project developer and manages building projects as representative of the contractor. The property economist was also the portfolio manager with REDEVCO Services Germany GmbH as well as being the managing director at Lührmann Asset-and Property Management GmbH.