Narkomfin By Elizaveta Radi & Wilko Potgeter


​By Elizaveta Radi & Wilko Potgeter


Cultural resources are not renewable, whereas some of the natural ones are. Therefore it is regarded as an imperative to ensure a cultural sustainability, as well as a sustainable construction. Karl-Marx-Allee was built between 1952 and 1961 as a flagship building project of Eastern Germany. The panel buildings of the latter building period are perhaps the most efficient buildings in terms of spatial partition on the rather grand 89-meter wide propaganda boulevard. Their design, however, is treated as an orphan, compared to the worker palaces of the Stalinist era only a few meters further down the street. The proposal Narkomfin, Plan B, is rehabilitating the unpretentious panels by building on top of them and extracting architectural qualities even from their austerity. 

In the matter of space the proposal traces back to the original, though later forgotten idea of Plattenbau: the communal house with minimized private spaces and generous, appealing spaces for the community. A social model which is not only very contemporary, but also sustainable. Thus a communal terrace emerges on the roof of the existing structure and becomes a centre of several public activities such as exhibition space, bar, urban gardening and an open air cinema. Not only the house community, but also the entire neighbourhood benefits from the grand terrace under the folded Pilotis structure. The Pilotis bear three floors of housing ateliers—twelve out of sixteen apartments are home-office ateliers, four are townhouse apartments for families —, which are accessible by the arcade on the second floor. This arcade pays tribute to the heritage of Hans Scharoun’s few arcade houses, which had emerged on Karl-Marx-Allee before the Stalinist period. It is a second meeting point of the community, as it does not only provide the access to the ateliers but acts also as their semi-public terrace. Thus the residents can completely open up the bi-folding arcade façade of their atelier to share the communal space. Within the apartments the gradation of privacy continues: From the communal atelier level the apartment diverges to an upper or a lower level with a living area, oriented to two sides and providing access to the private sleeping area.

While spatially generous, in terms of construction, the proposal finds its bearings in the construction of the panel buildings. Not as to sustainability, but rather concerning the efficiency: Using only Kerto products a very simple structure, which can easily be prefabricated and extended is beared by the extravagant folded structure built only out of Kerto-Q Panels and joint by a nejiri arigata joint. The new structure continues the axis system of the existing structure, so the forces of the new extension are conducted onto the concrete bulkheads of the QP59. Two of the four existing staircases are extended and provide access to the new part of the building. At the same time, they help to stiffen the wooden structure. Hence, a sustainable housing complex is designed—by simplifying and reducing the structure, and enriching the architecture through overlaying complex spatial situations.​

City Above the City architecture competition

Plan B : City Above the City architecture competition 

Metsä Wood challenged architects and students around the world to push the boundaries of modern wood building design in the urban environment. Entrants from 40 countries created their Plan B to urbanisation using wood (Kerto® LVL – laminated veneer lumber) as the main material. The task was to design a wooden extension to an existing urban building. The entries were designed to 69 cities worldwide.

Explore the designs