The Evolution Of The Big Idea

This is the story about the growth of a fabulous architectural idea and creating a big picture. It gives you the answer to questions, which are not existing at that moment.

When we started with the hotel project in October last year (2012), we thought we have to build a hotel if we want a hotel. Our heads' idea was that we want to add the hotel-function to the existing functions at the UdN (living, teaching, research, tree houses...). This means to keep the current structure like it is and to build something new without disturbing the UdN. So we had to think about making all the necessary functions for a hotel a new.

In the first two months, we were not working on the architecture topic. Generally, our focus was on the functions: reception, kitchen and wellness. We would call them community-building functions of the hotel. The opposite function is sleeping. For the sleeping rooms of a hotel, the topics relaxing and privacy are essential.

But for us, the community aspects seemed to be more important, so we minimised the sleeping areas like in a Japanese capsule hotel.

The rooms were also one reason for the growth of the planned hotel. We thought we would have to build a lot of rooms to become a hotel, and planned more than 50 capsules. By doing this, we forgot, that the size is not important for what we want to do with the hotel and that for this hotel as a strategy the community-building function, like the hotel restaurant, the bar and the reception are much more important. But more about this later, when we are thinking about the other, the existing hotel.

We started to develop architectural ideas during the first international workshop. Workshop students and project students tried to create an architectural concept which fits the hotel project and the UdN. So, the starting point was an analysis of the site, the inside and the outside of the area.

We learned more and more about the UdN area, about the specific aspects of different parts of the sites. We tried to define the different qualities (pluses) and problems (minus) of different places. We thought, out of this knowledge, we will develop the architectural plan immediately.

But what is a plus or a minus? It always depends on the function you want to put there. It depends on what we want, whether a place next to the park is a beautiful place for communication or whether it has less privacy. It depends on the kind of hotel we want to have. We had to ask ourselves what kind of hotel-hardware do we want?

Hardware Options

Looking for the best architectural idea, we collected as many options as possible. It is a toolbox for the whole building process. We can always go there, and maybe there is an option which fits the current problem. But at this moment, we were looking for the big idea. We looked through these ideas and discussed which qualities would be produced and the solution for the hotel or parts of it.

The competition of the extreme

We had a date to start building, and it was clear that we would need some time to develop the plans of a final version for the building authority. So we had to make decisions, and we did what's common in the world of architects - we made a competition. But which scenarios should be part of it? We decided to use two opposite scenarios and developed them a little bit further. At the end of the workshop, the architecture group presented the results to the others. Although we thought, in the end, we will use a mixture of both for the final plan, one idea was so strong that we decided to use this.

Opening architecture office

During the whole planning period, there was nearly no time for reflection. But there are a lot of reasons why we did what we did. We started planning after Christmas. This was also the time when our working groups changed. We had the function-based groups: food, wellness and reception and afterwards we started to work in project-based groups: architecture, organisation and public relations.

At this point, also our work and focus developed from working with the content to working with project milestones from the outside. Like sponsoring, material or the building authority. Also, time was running out. And there was too much work, like drawing the official plans, organising sponsors or paperwork for the building authority. So it was clear that we need our architecture group. From this moment, an "UdNarchitecture office" became part of our project. Also, Immanuel Miehm and Maja Momic started to work with us as experienced architects and interns.

Laboratory without laboratory conditions?

But our target was not to create a perfect plan on a sheet of paper, our target was to have a hotel, and at this moment, to built a hotel. So the reality started to influence our project. And this has never stopped. There was never the point to say. This is the final version. So the project changed and it was not only a reduction of the volume but also an ongoing development.

Also, we recognise a few things and changed our minds. It became clear that if we would like to have this consequent form we planned, we would have to chop down many trees. We decided to modify the form of the hotel instead of sacrificing the trees.

"I've recognized, that it is much more difficult to remove a tree in reality, than deleting two circles in the computer“

Our main building material should be the old IBA-Tower. This was also the reason for the decision to use the scaffolding as our primary material.
The existing scaffolding was not enough for the big idea. We had to decide what to do. We decided not to follow the plans blindly. The hotel had to shrink.

The legislation and the Building Authority influenced the project a lot.
There are two different kinds of building application, §61 and §62. Simplified, we could say §61 is for smaller projects and most importantly for expedited execution of plans – it doesn't need that much time.
That was the reason why we divided the project into two parts. This separation in the restaurant and the hotel is existing until now.

The main content is still alive

Even though the concept at the beginning of the international workshops in March didn't exactly look like what we had planned before, the main ideas are still part of the project.
The principle of the small capsules is still followed. Also a part of the roof is open now, and the Restaurant extension is becoming real. It is just looking a little bit different. And the building process is developing the architecture every day.

  • Mattias drowings (beginning of the building workshops).