In the west of Munich, just to the north of the Friedenheimer Bridge, lies an 87,000 square metres site occupied by the Paketposthalle [Parcel Post Hall]. Built in the late 1960s, it was used until 1997 as a postal railway hub and has since been used as a sorting office for general mail. In 2018, due to the projected relocation of the mail hub to Germering, the entire site, including the hall, was sold to the consortium Büschl Unternehmensgruppe. This gave rise to a new and potentially exciting situation.
The investor commissioned Herzog & de Meuron, together with an interdisciplinary planning team, to develop an urban study outlining a holistic concept that would incorporate landscape, infrastructure and housing. The brief was to put forward ideas of a new use for the historically listed Paketposthalle and the development of the surrounding site into an urban district with a densely woven infrastructure. The resulting masterplan envisages a mix of privately and publicly financed housing, business premises and spaces for social and cultural activities.
Concept: A Public Place. A Sign. An Urban District
The site surrounding the Paketposthalle is a place where both the positive potential and the downfalls of European urban development meet. Alongside striking examples of individual buildings are also areas lacking any central focus that might be conducive to assembly, encounter, exchange or other urban development. This is where the concept proposes three strategies:
- The listed building should become a public space as a large, roofed hall offering a platform for all manner of cultural uses.
- In combination with two towers oriented towards the hall, a unique architectural composition will anchor the site as a new urban focal point for the entire city.
- Around the hall, there will be a district with a clear yet flexible urban typology that can cater to a wide variety of uses, while remaining compact enough to allow urban density and quality.
Landmark Building as Roofed Plaza
In order for this flexible space to become an incubator of flourishing urban life, there has to be a curatorial concept with the support and engagement of the municipality and the populace alike. Instead of a permanent, monofunctional usage, it is envisaged that a sequence of diverse events should be presented throughout the year under one roof. The variety on offer should firmly establish local and more widespread perceptions of the hall as an important event venue.
Landmark Building as Centre of Art and Culture Underneath the urban level, newly created basement areas will provide space for a number of important Munich cultural institutions. These could include an exhibition venue for digital art, a virtual reality theme park or a large multifunctional hall. The existing demand for an inner-city venue capable of hosting between three and five thousand people for major public events could be accommodated by the Paketposthalle.
The masterplan envisages placing two towers of around 155m high, with a geometric form derived from the sweeping curve of the existing Paketposthalle roof, thereby creating a specific point of reference within the city. This constellation has been carefully examined by way of urban planning studies regarding the overall visual impact on the city. The two towers form a gateway at the south-west corner of the hall, flanking the important new green space oriented towards the Hirschgarten park.
The mixed use envisaged for the district is also reflected in the verticality of the two towers. The tapering of the tower volumes creates a variety of different floor areas throughout the upward progress of the structure. While the generous space provided by the lower floors are suitable for offices, the smaller floors above them could be allocated for hotel accommodation with the uppermost levels for residential use. At every level, wrap-around balconies provide create a vibrant, outward-looking feel to the tower facades rather than a hermetically closed one.
Courtyards: Flexibility, Mixed Use and Programmatic Diversity
The six-storey courtyard buildings form an urban context that contrasts with the scale of the hall and towers. The linear expression of the development echoes the orientation of the hall and can be further subdivided into units for home-ownership. The courtyard gardens, elevated by one storey to mezzanine level, will be accessible to the residents of the respective courtyard buildings, as semi-public green spaces. By contrast, the alleyways between the courtyard buildings will act as public spaces, free of vehicular traffic, thereby creating a small-scale urban community atmosphere between the public arena of the Paketposthalle and the private sphere of the courtyard gardens.
The ground-floor areas are aligned across the entire depth of the building and stretch the entire length of the alleyways. They offer space for any number of commercial purposes, including offices, restaurants as well as social facilities such as schools and kindergartens. The courtyard development provides space for many different types of residential units, providing a dual aspect onto the urban alleyways as well as to the green spaces. As in in the northern part of the development, there is also the possibility for childcare facilities or retirement homes.
Reducing subterranean building volumes frees up primary energy sources and thus considerably cuts the CO² emissions otherwise associated with the construction of such a project. Exploring further potential for the reduction of CO² emissions is an important part of the ongoing planning process. The legal planning guidelines for this new urban district set out important underlying requirements for inner-city expansion, precluding any further exploitation of landscape as an increasingly rare resource.
Landscape in the City
The site surrounding the Paketposthalle has been designed as an urban district in the west end of Munich, where city and landscape can coincide on many different levels in a way that benefits the residents. The landscaping conceived by Vogt Landschaftsarchitekten provides for a broad spectrum of different types of outdoor areas. A woodland park to the south-east of the hall, urban squares and alleyways, semi-public gardens at ground level in the courtyard complexes, and green roof gardens all contribute to a diverse yet cohesive whole that forms an urban landscape skirting the railway complex. Source and images Courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.