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The Making of the Kölsche Kachel

Christian Heuchel
12. 5月 2022
Parkstadt Süd as an urban planning model. © O&O Baukunst

Architecture shapes the identity of a location. Modernism, however, has brought about the emergence of a globalized aesthetic. Interchangeability and non-identity characterize many cities worldwide. How can this conformity of urban design be counteracted, how can a local identity be created? Which elements contribute to creating an architecture that can be linked to emotional experiences? Which materials can be used to subtly support the identity and DNA of a city?

Parkstadt Süd in the urban context. © O&O Baukunst
The Colors of Cologne

In the south of Cologne, one of the largest urban development projects in Europe is being built: Parkstadt Süd. O&O Baukunst from Cologne won the competition for the framework development planning of Parkstadt Süd. Over the next few years, a new urban quarter will be built on the site surrounding the old wholesale market. For this large-scale project, we have designed a typology of houses that can in this form only be found in Cologne. Architecture shapes the identity of a place. Home and identity are concepts that move each and every one of us. We are weary of the white housing estates of the Bauhaus and of a conception of the city that is purely pragmatic and functional. We want to create an architecture that enables emotional experiences. That is why we have developed a special color concept for Parkstadt Süd. The Colors of Cologne comprises a color range that is anchored in Cologne’s cultural history. The conformity of the urban planning is thus counteracted. The new city quarter will be bathed in a special color atmosphere. 

The photo shows The Colors of Cologne in a typical Cologne setting. © O&O Baukunst
Inspired by Roman oil lamps: the new color range for Parkstadt Süd. © O&O Baukunst
The Cologne Family

As a pilot project of Parkstadt Süd, a residential building has been under construction on Sechtemer Strasse since 2021 that takes up the urban development characteristics of the city of Cologne: the Cologne Family. Buildings from different eras stand side by side quite naturally. Accordingly, the new residential building is composed of four independent building units—unity with simultaneous diversity. Each unit is unique, each house features an individual design and stands out from its neighbors. They are connected by a ceramic plinth finished in the color ‘Cathedral Gold’. We wanted to use a special building product for this plinth, but it still had to be developed: it should be unmistakably handcrafted and relate directly to the city of Cologne. 

Cologne Tile

In a world of increasing digitalization, the haptic experience is being lost. This is a phenomenon that we as architects have been aware of for a long time. That’s why we want the properties of the materials used in our buildings to be tangible to the senses. We are permanently looking for companies with which we can immerse ourselves in their world of materials, both technically and in terms of craftsmanship. The Cologne-based company Backstein Kontor is committed to the development of custom-made products every day; its approach is down-to-earth, its solutions are suitable for everyday use. Together, we developed the Cologne Tile: made of ceramic, hand-sized and dipped in the color ‘Cathedral Gold’. Its characteristics demonstrate the strength of the material: it is versatile, lively and timeless. The historical memories of the city are encapsulated in this tile. The Cologne Tile evokes associations with the architecture of the reconstruction in the 1950s and the great tradition of tile production in Europe. 

Model in 'Cathedral gold', with red joints. © O&O Baukunst/Backstein-Kontor
Craftsmanship

Hand-made prototypes are essential elements of European building culture. They memorize urban histories and experiences in detail. This ability is to be preserved in the material. Being built from them enables a city like Cologne to develop its own radiance in the long term. As architects and urban planners, we at O&O Baukunst have an interest in ensuring that our ideas and products are not only found in our buildings, but are also available for broad, everyday use. A product for many, which can readily be used in large quantities. The Cologne Tile shows how important it is to keep trying with heart and soul from the first idea to the building project. This is the architect’s responsibility. Embedded in our history and the city, it is important to reflect memories and forms. These materials are intended to subtly support the identity and DNA of the city.

Interactive map
Using selected building projects by O&O Baukunst, the topic is presented taking the city of Cologne as an example. For information on the projects, click here for the interactive map.

«Town Planning in Democratic Structures» is a project of O&O Baukunst Köln, C. FATH and World-Architects.

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