Poppenbüttel Community Centre

Architectural-Competition 2017

On Poppenbütteler Berg a new local community-house will be co-constructed from 2018 on. Our proposal is based on the methodology developed by the various actors involved, enabling participation in the planning, design, implementation, operation and use of the Community Centre in accommodation with dwelling in perspectives.


Based on these fundamental experiments and the knowledge produced and shared during the two Summer Schools, we envision the future Community Centre unfolding along the lines of both the hardware and the software architecture. Capitalizing on the existing potential and dynamic (experience of the Summer Schools, different sets of skills, social relations, academic knowledge, desire for experimentation and individual enthusiasm), we are proposing a design which closely interweaves construction processes with learning and community ones. We take into consideration a multitude of actors and participants: Residents skilled and unskilled, current and future, students of the technical school, professional construction companies, craftsmen, academics and university students, and finally the architectural team itself. We strongly believe that the use of different sets of existing skills, the acquisition of new ones within a horizontal organization of learning, as well as the creation of a convivial environment where participants are encouraged to come out of their usual comfort zone will foster identification, create new agencies and set the foundations for strong social ties.

To illustrate our proposition on our panel, invented figures representing the different groups are following up the project, showing involvement throughout different phases, intensities and ways of participation. For the involvement on the construction site we draw inspiration from the medieval occupation title “master- builder”, describing a fusion of different roles that does not exist anymore on modern construction sites. The person with this title does not only lead the construction, but also conceives the project, switching between designing and building. In an inclusive and intertwined procedure that considers all different disciplines while also anticipating unplanned outcomes, the master-builder uses her/his knowledge as an exceptionally skilled crafts(wo)man.

Moreover, overcoming the service-oriented character of modern construction sites which only deliver a final outcome, we see the construction phase in its processual dimension and focus on aspects of conviviality and becoming. The construction site therefore becomes a place where the builders live all together, where a canteen feeds the hungry workers and knowledge and skills are exchanged. In a first step we conceive places of production and furnish tools to then be able to produce a real construction site situation according to the local and concrete needs whilst staying adaptable throughout this process to unexpected turns. We live in situ and put in place a social and material infrastructure that assures the quality of the space, the food, the exchange and everything that is needed to produce something worthwhile.



The project timeline is sequenced in different phases, taking in consideration building laws, available time and budget and previous experience. Within this framework we are exploring all potential moments for participation, whether it is about learning, helping or full responsible self-making. To mark the different sequences and create identification and celebration moments, we are using traditional builders’ rituals, rituals of the different cultures involved in the project and specifically-invented, hybrid formats.


The first act will be to move the structures of the 2016 info pavilion and their components (containers, staircases etc.) to the new building-site. This will be carried out during a performative “procession of the containers”, a celebration moment which marks the start of the collective building process. Using the available containers allows us to quickly gain the infrastructure for all future building activities and workshops so that the building-site comes to life!

In the development of the project, the containers will become part of the Begegnungshaus. They will be permanently installed in the basement level but not visible as such, hidden from the slope of the site, using and a bit reinforcing the terrain’s natural difference in altitude.


The second act includes the construction of a regular grid of even rough concrete stilts covered by another concrete slab, all made in a cooperative way. Formwork, reinforcing steel and concrete-pouring are thereby regarded as opportunities for knowledge exchange. Moreover, the participatory aspect of this phase bears a strong symbolical dimension: Collectively setting the foundations of the future Begegnungshaus allows also for collectively creating the foundations of the community. These solid material and immaterial foundations bring about a space of encounters and exchange.

When this task is fulfilled, we will both have reached the floor level of the Begegnungshaus and will have created a covered workshop space for the Bauhütte on the basement level. From now on various workshops for the production of building materials, furniture etc. (such as the Furniturama and the Tiles Workshop) can take place independently of the conditions and proceeding construction site on its top.


The Richtfest, a traditional builders’ ritual, concludes the third act of our building process. It marks the raising of the last beam to complete the main wooden structure of a building. While preparation, cutting and pre-assembling often takes time, the raising needs a lot of hands and goes rather fast. For this reason, the Richtfest is traditionally considered a thanksgiving moment for all the helping hands. It is another good learning moment, although it needs experts to direct the process due to the imagination capacity needed in order to understand how to prepare and connect the individual pieces to a whole.


The idea of the support structure is stemming from the 2016 prototype of the info pavilion while it acquires new symbolic value in the context of the Begegnungshaus. Instead of marking its periphery, it is now embedded within the building and creates a backbone-like cross structure, carrying organizational, aesthetic and symbolic functions. It leads into and across the building, separates and links the gathering and functional spaces through it’s punctured modular aspect, while it provides large zones for storage and technical infrastructure. It is therefore a structure which supports both the hardware and the software architecture of the community building.


The purpose of a Begegnungshaus is not exhausted in the provision of meeting spaces for the community, but it also showcases and communicates its activities in full transparency. The roof, co-designed during the Summer School 2017, is a composition of individual, complementary gables facing towards the surroundings across all four sides of the Begegnungshaus. The roof, whose geometry and detailing allow for roof-windows and therefore more light in the inside of the building, is also an architectural game with the element of the traditional gable and a comment on the social complexity of its users. The building facade is envisioned in glass, and is therefore transparent everywhere apart from the sanitary zones.


The lower level of the building is half-dug into the ground on two sides, open towards the north and the connecting path with the surrounding district. As this is a car-free path, only pedestrians and bikes can access the building from this side. The path will be connected with the future settlement, whose altitude is equal to the upper level of the structure. People can cross the lower floor and use the staircase to enter the upper level. Moreover, the lower floor is freely accessible and functions independently of the Begegnungshaus (eg. bike, storage, sanitary etc.). The alternative connection to the upper level will be offered through a ramp along the terrain’s slope, allowing wheelchairs to move between the upper and the lower level of the Begegnungshaus. The main entry to the upper level of the Begegnungshaus is oriented towards the east and the new dwelling settlement. The two gathering spaces (“multifunctional space” and “seminar room”) are widely open to the south (both visually – through the facade – and physically), giving access over a terrace to the sport grounds and other communal spaces of the new dwelling settlement.

We have designed the two levels of the Begegnungshaus as two independently accessible and usable surfaces. The upper floor with its “heated”, closed spaces represents the minimum usable area and stays within the suggested surface after economical calculations of its operation costs ( ~ 236qm). The lower level remains open for the moment and provides space for building workshops, sport activities, storage etc. For the future we envision that small-scale and non-disturbing local activities could be developed and use the existing infrastructure. According to the availability of material and immaterial resources, with refined future goals and a new economic model, it could be possible to create new spaces for (temporal) activities which would extend the minimum usable surface.