‘Spore is a cultural initiative facilitating programs on regenerative ecological practices through experiences of intergenerational learn- ing. At the core of our work is the weaving of dialogues and the nurturing of common grounds that exist between communities, organizations, and people who may be geographically or culturally far from one another but are linked through practices of care for the earth.’*1
‘A spore is an extremely small, often single and occasionally multi- celled, reproductive body capable of doing many fascinating things. Under adverse circumstances, a spore is able to remain dormant for substantial periods of time, reanimating itself for dispersion and germination when conditions are right. It is capable of reproduction without sexual fusion and mobilizes its ability to develop into a new organism in order to support and diversify ecosystems. So tiny that it is invisible to the human eye, the microscopic spore carries the potential to blossom into infinite forms of life.’*1
The ‘Spore Initiative’ was completed in 2023, designed for the non- profit foundation Spore Initiative (est. 2020), and is located in the bustling urban neighborhood of Hermannstraße in Berlin-Neukölln. The surroundings are characterized by a complex of old cemetery areas and dense Wilhelminian-style perimeter blocks and the socially diverse neighborhood is in rapid transformation.
Serving as a community space and cultural center, the multifunctional building orients its ground floor towards public use with an interplay of open, flowing spatial areas and spatially separated cores zones including a foyer, an auditorium, several spaces for workshops, conference and social interaction, as well as a café. The foyer is separated into its northern and southern counterparts by a representative exposed concrete staircase with wooden stairs that leads two exhibition rooms on the first floor and the public sanitary facilities in the basement.
A semi-public library, rooms for workshops and lectures as well as more private offices space and two apartments for in-house artists compose the second and third floors, along with, a semi-public roof terrace offering impressive views to the lively urban neighborhood and peaceful former cemetery.
Together with the neighboring‘ Publix: House for Non-Profit Journal- ism’(AFF Architekten, completion expected in early 2024), the Spore Initiative creates an urban building ensemble. The height development of the ensemble is staggered to follow the rhythm of the park solitaires and finds its high point at the rooftop of the adjacent 6-storey housing block.
An «Ort des Zusammenkommens», meaning a place of gathering, structures the core idea of the building typology, formulated through differentiated open spaces in conjunction with its spatial functions. A spatial widening of the public street is created between the offset volumes of the two buildings and the listed light beacon mast - a relic of the air traffic of the former Tempelhof Airport - is incorporated into the square structure and shapes the public urban niche.
Furthermore, the historic cemetery portal is integrated in-between the Spore Initiative and the Publix buildings, creating a special action, similar to a forecourt, that forms the common address of both institutions as well as a self-evident passage piece.
The use of brickwork in the facades references to the surrounding cemetery buildings but in a more contemporary and restrained architectural language.
The facade reflects the stacking of various functions, from the generous structural glazing on the ground floor visually connecting the urban space with the interior, the layering of reused clinker bricks that shape the exhibition floor and the crowning of the upper two floors with new-fired brick to highlight the tapering of the building. The different materials were sensitively matched to each other in their feel and color and combine in their respective monolithic joining to form a continuous façade cladding.
An exposed concrete ribbed ceiling cantilevers across the column free foyer spaces on the ground floor generating a honeycomb-like structure, coined as the ‘spore ceiling’, that optimizes the use of material while forms part of the building’s identity.
The ‘spore ceiling’ was developed in conjunction with the structural engineers from ‘Schnetzer Puskas’, based in Basel, with the aim to create the greatest possible spatial coherence.Iterative processes and parametric simulations of computer-based 3D models were used to trans- late the main stress trajectories of the ceiling load curves into a concrete rib structure.
As a result, an extremely material-optimized exposed concrete ribbed slab was implemented, which spans of up to 12 m. The material-reduced flat slab with an average thickness of 14 cm (18/10) and the slim ribs
that are only 15 wide and 38 cm high were made possible by large reinforcement diameters.
Monolithic cores made of reinforced concrete support the ceilings load’s and include features such as a café, cloakroom and an additional exhibition space.
The interior is defined by the two main materials, oak wood and exposed concrete. Galvanized steel components complement the material concept on
load bearing structures.
The handcrafted and raw nature of the building’s materialization ensures an aesthetic ageing process where coatings on wood, metal and concrete surfaces are intentionally avoided. As a result, the rough finish gives a sense of rigidity and durability.
"Furthermore, the concept of "sustainable reality" as a design strategy was tested at different scales, with a focus on local recycling. In addition to the re-used bricks of the façade, part of the formwork elements of the spore ceiling could be used as structural timber for the roof pavilion. Adapted to their new location, collected sanitary objects and the seating shells of the auditorium could be mounted and reused in collaboration with Ilja Oelschlägel, a product designer from Leipzig. "
The entire interior of the Spore was furnished by the ‘Spore initiative’ itself with lovingly selected objects and collected, reused furniture.
All in all, a robust urban building block has been created that can act as a future initiator and promote social dialogue through an exciting public use concept and its characteristic architecture.
Public Workshops, Conference and Exhibition Areas, including Offices, Apartments and Workspaces for cultural education