Well-planned use of modern timber construction in high-performance and cost-effective residential building construction
SBB AG, Schweizerische Bundesbahnen Immobilien, Bern
Rolf Mühlethaler, Bern/CH
Tschopp + Kohler Ingenieure GmbH, Thun (Holzbau)
Rolf Mühlethaler won the competition for a residential and office complex in Berne with his idea to house the extensive programme of spaces in just one building so that the rest of the site could be left open as a generously dimensioned public space. The new, five-storey structure replaces Berne’s former express freight station and is situated at the crossroads between a residential area and large-scale commercial development. The scale and design of the new building have been chosen to create an urban planning transitionbetween the two adjacent, heterogeneous districts, which now share the benefits of the new playing fields and recreation areas with the residents of Wylerpark. Atop the existing undergroundlevels, which were once used by a freight forwarder as storage halls, two office storeys were erected, reaching as far as the former rail tracks. These levels are topped by a cantilevered platformwhose deep overhang creates a spacious protected area in front of the building. Here, the facade of slim concrete pillars reaching across two storeys echoes the look of the previous structure.On top of the platform, a three-storey apartment block was erected out of timber elements as an independent building. Thanks to a high degree of prefabrication, it took only six weeks to build. Furthermore, the low weight of the structure allowed for all of the required flats to be realised on the added floors. Residents access their flats from behind the building via exterior galleries, and each apartment also has a loggia at its entrance equipped with a sliding element to close it off from the public walkway. The project demonstrates in an arresting manner how the well-planned use of modern timber construction can lead to high-performance, cost-effective buildings designed to fit into the urban context.