The Conversion of Cologne’s Former Railway Head Office

The centre of Cologne is well known for a number of important historical landmarks, such as its cathedral (the Kölner Dom), and a recent architectural renovation of another historical building in the city’s centre is likely to add to Cologne’s reputation.

Situated along the banks of the river Rhine, the former headquarters of the Royal Railway Office, is an iconic part of the city’s architectural silhouette, located within the vicinity of the main railway station, cathedral and the city centre. Built between 1906 and 1913, the neoclassical style of the original building had a commanding presence, and corresponding designs can only be found in classical palaces.

Until recently, the building had remained dormant with only a minor renovation in the late 1940’s to replace the roof which was destroyed during World War II (resulting in the single story mansard roof). Following the just completed renovation by kadawittfeldarchitektur the building has now become the home of EASA, the european aviation safety agency.

The new design takes the existing historical and listed structure–including the historic facades–into consideration and develops a contemporary, modern solution for the pre-war mansard roof structure, which now forms a distinct contrast to the historic features below. Clearly separated from the listed structure by a shadow joint, the new facade of the roof extension appears as an independent, homogenous structure with a horizontal arrangement, lending a dynamic, elegant and transparent look. Metal bands envelop the four roof storeys and trace the slope of the historic roof contours that characterised the Rhine river silhouette of the cathedral city for many years.

One of the main design aims was find an economically feasible and sustainable solution, which meant that only certain elements of the original structure were maintained, such as the exterior walls and the listed facade.

The original forecourt of the building was comparatively narrow, which meant that the building was very close to the Rhine riverbank. As such, the entrance has been changed to include disabled access and windows have been enlarged into full-height doorways. The new entrances allow both light to penetrate more deeply into the building and the opportunity to divide the interior space (such as for different tenants).

The design and colour scheme of the open and flexible office landscape in the building interior is based on the concept of “sky over cologne” as developed by the architects. The seven office storeys are guided by the hues of the sky over cologne at sunset, meaning that each storey has its own colour.

Photo credits: Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from kadawittfeldarchitektur.


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