Park-haus II

A project for the transformation of a multi-storey car park into a contemporary home. With a focus on preserving the existing building and creating additional high-quality yet affordable living space in a prime location. The future flats will offer living space for anyone who is interested in a somewhat alternative form of living and appreciates the special features that come with living in a converted parking garage. The focus is on communal living in various facets. The area surrounding Biel station is undergoing an intensive development process, with projects being planned, under construction or recently completed on almost every plot of land. The region already benefits from educational institutions and from 2026, a new campus for the university of applied sciences will further revitalise the area in the near future as several thousand students are expected to arrive every day. It is therefore the ideal place to offer additional living space. Read more

To make the world a better place for every form of life. Bring reality a bit closer to the collective utopia. With this motivation, the project focuses on several topics that should ideally culminate in its current form, 'The ECI - House Europe!' and the typology of the parking garage forming the bigger framework. The project itself can be seen as a test case for the feasibility of transforming a parking garage into housing. The approach aimed to be as close to reality as possible, beginning in the research and analysis of the site. The focus heavily laid on the potential collaboration with the main stakeholder and owner of the site, the Coop Group, as the largest retailer, one of the largest employers, and also one of the largest real estate companies in Switzerland. With the question why there are no cooperative homes offered by Coop.

With an almost obsessive urge to convince this giant by offering solid numbers (financially, spatially, sustainably, and socially) to make them an offer they can't refuse and therefore convince Coop that cooperative housing should be in their portfolio. The realization came that the focus should probably shift to the project's effect and not just the initial proposal. This led to a shift to simply create the best homes possible with a small construction effort and consideration for potential future users, regardless of what Coop might think of it initially.

With this in mind, the design of the apartments is defined by solving the major problems that come with the building, its structure, the placement in the city fabric, and the very close neighboring buildings.

To address this, three main strategies are applied to minimize some of these problems. For the lack of light and air, a new central axis is carved out of the floors, respectively, the ceilings, while leaving all the beams intact. This made it possible to create a new facade on the inside of the building.

This action created a new problem of lots and large thermal bridges that now have to be addressed. A possible solution applied here is to create a buffer zone, a part of an apartment that is not 100% insulated and heated. This works as a solution for the insulation problem and also serves as access to the rooms, the warm part. Furthermore, all the apartments have a shared atrium that is a double-height room connecting two floors (all apartments are duplex) for more light and serves as an entry room. These shared atriums are part of the flat with a through-plan typology that all share certain spaces, either in the apartment itself with the buffer zone that becomes a season room, the entry atrium, but also on a building level in the form of the lightwell zone and the community rooms.

Because the load-carrying structure is left entirely as it is, there are limited possibilities for placing stairs and riser shafts. Also, the room heights are at the lowest end of the needed requirements (2.30m in the canton of Bern), which they just fulfill, but the insulation has to go to the outside, like a cloak with the exception of the inside facade.

All in all only three types of walls are used; A new wooden-frame straw insulated wall, a transparent one perpendicular to the beams direction and the third ones are reused floor parts that are only used in the buffer zone.

The close neighbors and the lack of green spaces in the area are addressed by offering a new garden on the south-eastern part of the building, in the lightwell zone and on top of the roof (top parking deck).

The area per person is generous with 33 m2, 42 m2, respectively, 46 m2 (Swiss average 46.8 m2), but only around 20 m2 are heated, so this is even lower than the strictest regulations in Switzerland (around 30 m2). By combining large generous, shared semi-insulated spaces and limited fully heated private space, the project offers a lot of space without compromising too much energy for heated rooms. In the current state, there is space for at least 108 people.

With the Coop Group still in mind, there was an opportunity to present the project 'Park-Haus-II' to the public, which was being documented in a V-Log style video. The goal of that was, on the one hand, getting a reality check of the actual potential future users and, on the other, provoking a secondary reaction from Coop to the project. The experience of presenting in public to random strangers was a very humbling and eye-opening experience. From full acceptance to doubt, to even distrust, there were all kinds of opinions on whether it might be a good idea to actually do this. Even though the majority seemed convinced, the project's impact could be extended. The reaction from the Coop Group is still pending; during the day of the presentation, the store manager was consulted, but he didn’t have the time to talk, not even a minute - maybe to achieve this more time and projects like these are needed. Read less

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