As a reminiscence of the industrial past, the design takes up existing structures and zoning while the history of the site remains tangible. Special characteristics are carved out, reinforced by targeted interventions and transformed in a future-oriented way. The mixture of existing and new uses such as production, services, housing, and leisure forms a socially and ecologically integrated neighbourhood.
From a yarn factory to a productive neighbourhood Hof (Saale) is the third largest city in Upper Franconia after Bamberg and Bayreuth with a population of nearly 50,000. The task of the closed urban planning implementation competition was to restructure the former Hoftex Spinnerei site into a mixed, inner-city urban area. In addition to the 4.8 hectare spinning mill site including the former main building, the areas adjacent to the city centre surrounding the main post office, the fire department and the historic buildings of the former terminus station were also part of the project. The competition area covers a total of 8.1 hectares and connects the central city centre with the adjoining cultural area to the west with the theatre, the Hofer Symphonikern and the Freiheitshalle.
High-density development on the one hand, generous open space concept on the other In the north, the Wilhelminian villas will be complemented in certain areas, the central area in the immediate vicinity of the historic spinning mill building will be redensified, followed by a generous public open space with a body of water to the south. This creates three individual sections with differentiated quality and atmosphere. The planned linkages weave together the three areas both with each other and with the rest of the urban fabric.
The density of the building structures creates spatial proximity, seals little surface and enables a variety of life, communication and community at the same time. The southern public open space particularly enhances the quality of life beyond the site for the entire downtown, supports the microclimate and promotes biodiversity.
Distinctive structure The heart of the design is the vacant Hoftex Group AG building, which has been expanded, raised and modernized several times since the spinning mill was founded in 1884. In the context of the competition, the new construction of the main building from 1936 with the cityscape-defining administration tower was to be integrated into the planning as a potential commercial, service and creative space. A phased deconstruction at a later stage needed be considered as well.
Based on the footprint of the factory, the winning design takes up the building line of the existing building in the north and extends it in the direction of the rail line with a block that is rounded off in the west like a ship’s bow. To the south, a row of buildings with a distinct frontage structure complement the condensed yet permeable large-scale form. The large-scale grain of the cityscape-defining buildings of the fire department and post office is continued with this urban centre of the new quarter. Due to the composition of buildings with different sizes, the building mass is subdivided to blend into its heterogeneous surroundings.
Building typologies Different building typologies serve as a robust framework for the development of the project area. The wide range of amenities will sustainably revitalize the neighbourhood and make it resilient to changes in the future. As a tandem, two typologies are proposed per building to create synergies within the building and a high degree of social mix on the site.
Construction phases Phase 0 serves as revitalization. For this purpose, part of the path network and the open space in the south will be implemented. Interim uses will move into the administrative high-rise building that characterizes the cityscape.
In the first construction phase, a hybrid block will be built in the west. The “Arch” offers living space in the form of maisonettes with gardens on the first floor and smaller apartments on the upper floors. Areas for working and apartments with great views will find space in the “Sloping Typology”. “Row Houses” with a small studio on the ground floor, “Strong Back” with units by the residential arbour, and cluster apartments at their ends complete the typology mix. The villas to the north are complemented with structures in the green that provide space for service living, “living+” and assisted living.
Part of the second phase of construction is the “Residential Street.” Residential units of varying sizes sit on a deep first floor used for restaurants and businesses. These can be developed by construction groups and cooperatives. The “Big Type” can function as a youth hostel and boarding house with a small cinema for the Hof Film Festival.
Phase three represents the expansion of the existing halls from the 1940s. By cutting into the existing structure, space for commercial uses and businesses will get created. Additionally, residential units with an industrial character as well as communal living by central square can be realized.
Sustainability A cleverly connected neighbourhood enables a resource-preserving lifestyle without the loss of quality of life. This includes a common energy concept for the neighbourhood with locally produced energy, a rainwater management system with storage in the lake, and various depots for food and appliances.
Mobility concept Coming from the city centre, the paths for pedestrians and cyclists through the neighbourhood divide at the new square in front of the market hall. A fast passage is envisioned in the northern area. However, the path in the south along the former parcel hall and the new water area encourages strolling. At the lake, west of the railroad and Hochstrasse at the connection between the city center and the cultural area, a place to rest will be created. To ensure that centre of the neighbourhood remains car-free, motorized individual traffic will be directed to underground parking garages at the entrances.
Open space design The Wasserhof (water yard), as the new “Living Room” of the city, enriches the surroundings with its urban and at the same time scenic atmosphere. The square becomes an open retention area that collects and openly stores rainwater. The gravelled square slopes gently downwards towards the south and ends with a clearly defined edge. Changing water levels create a dynamic square situation. Rainwater from roofs and paved areas is collected and led to the southern edge, where it can accumulate in a controlled manner. Location-suitable trees such as willows, cypresses, and alders cover the square and, due to their natural habitats, also allow for flooding. Rushes and reeds create green spaces, serve as water filters and increase biodiversity.
The garden courtyards make reference to the history of the site, and the choice of their planting and materiality ties in with the artisanal processes that once took place here. For example, plants that were once used to dye yarn and wool are proposed for the Dyer’s Yard, while the Fiber Garden calls for plants that were be used to spin yarns. This creates strong and distinct identities within the neighbourhood.
A carpet-like sequence of different uses and amenities forms the linear focus in the main square. The materiality and the way of installing the pavers refer to the artisanal art of weaving and therefore to the history of the place. Groups of trees form a green volume in the second level and sustainably provide a pleasant microclimate. Loose furnishings and large tables strengthen neighbourly togetherness and provide space for communication and exchange. Semi-public open spaces are not only installed horizontally and vertically on the first floor, but on many levels – from the residential street, over bridges, to the roof terrace.