Greener densification

With “Carré Belge” ingenhoven architects working in collaboration with Proximus Real Estate AG have created a new quarter in Cologne’s downtown area that should improve the city’s microclimate through densification and urban greening.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 6/24/2021

“Going forward it will be a prime concern to densify cities in a way that saves energy and resources while maintaining a mixed, vibrant city or generating these qualities where they do not yet exist,” says Christoph Ingenhoven. With the Carré Belge in Cologne’s downtown area the architecture office located centrally between the Belgian Quarter and the Gerling Quarter has just completed a new quarter that fulfils this task: Aligned to the street the office and retail building “Capitol” was redeveloped and given a new facade design. The heart of the project will be located in the quiet courtyard of the complex: An ecologically sustainable new-build hotel. On an area of 4,000 square meters ingenhoven architects have realized a compact cubic volume with an eye-catching facade thanks to the alternation between transparent and closed surfaces. In addition, floor-to-ceiling windows let ample daylight enter the 186 rooms. The building’s staggered terraces and roofs were greened in collaboration with landscape planners Enzo Enea: A good 114 trees and shrubs – all of them native species like apple, birch or mountain ash – will be planted in tubs, some of which will grow up to four meters tall.

The project is intended to exemplify how inner-city areas can be successfully densified and achieve more than simply creating additional space. In this case, the greenery will noticeably improve the quarter’s microclimate while also enhancing residents’ quality of life. Specifically, the plants will bind carbon dioxide and dust while encouraging biodiversity; moreover, rainwater will be stored and the urban heat island effect will be reduced. “It is one of our tasks as architects, as developers and landscape planners that such measures become standard practice in our cities. There is a great deal of potential that needs to be exploited. Everybody must make a contribution and we are also playing our part,” says Christoph Ingenhoven. For many years now ingenhoven architects have focused on sustainable architecture and been intensively concerned with urban greening as essential responses for cities facing the ever-greater consequences of climate change. As early as 1997 they realized one of the first ecological high-rises with the RWE Tower in Essen, while the Kö-Bogen II in Düsseldorf commissioned in 2020 is Europe’s largest green facade. To describe this holistic concept of sustainable building and planning they have formulated the protected term “supergreen”.