by Jing Zhou
15km southeast of Berlin Mitte, 45 minutes commute from HU Hauptgebäude by S-Bahn with 1 change stop, then 3 more stops with the Tram line. When the tram door opens, a group of three-to-four-story clean cubic buildings directly enter the eyes. Here you are, Studentendorf Adlershof.
Finished in October 2014, Studentendorf Adlershof consists of 10 residence buildings of the same style, but different designs for different purposes and room plans. Simply put, they are white building blocks with interesting box-structured oriels and colorful blinds embedded. Some of the windows on the white walls are not regularly ordered in a line, but from a mirrored “s” shape vertically. Building 10 has two extensions of window house that serve as an office and a bar. The first impression can only be described as simple, industrialized, and cool.
Walking through the paths between the buildings, there is not enough green planted by the side of the apartment buildings, which is understandable because it has been only some months from the time the construction is finished. The big ceiling-to-floor windows make it easy to look into the kitchens and living rooms on the ground floor. On the one hand, the big windows introduce enough light sources into the living room; on the other hand, they bring problems: it is so easy to see what people are doing inside that makes the living room almost a public space without privacy. Moreover, people are using opened windows as entrance to the house, which could cause security problems when nobody is in the living room.
The most eye-catching design should be the blinds on the façade. Each wall has its own color of blinds, such as rose, blue, yellow, green, teal, purple, and so on. With those colorful blinds embedded in the wood oriels, the architects give a warm and lively twist into the industrial look of the building. However, considering the people who are living inside, the blinds that are in the color yellow or light green wouldn’t do a good job at blocking light from outside. Moreover, psychologically the color of the blinds is a possible factor in influencing people’s mood. Some people may not like to have the color red in their bedrooms because red fails to bring the calmness for sleeping.
Facilitated with a kindergarten and little children’s playground, Studentendorf Adlershof provides an ease for international scholars with children. It offers seven kinds of rooms and apartments, designed friendly for students, families and guests. Most rooms are 15 m2 classic ensuites, with their own bathroom, sharing a 90 m2 kitchen and living room area with other 12 or 13 people. The sharing of kitchen and living room in a large degree helps to create a social atmosphere among the housemates, along with the big tables and sofas furniture in the living room. There are also 22 qm one-room apartments and 38qm two-room apartments with their own pantries. In those room types there are no cooker hoods installed, which contribute to the frequent fire-alarm problems just because someone is cooking and the smoke can’t get out of the room without a cooker hood. In this case, obviously a cooker hood could be installed and there could be a door or a wall to better separate the kitchen and bedroom space.
There are some unpractical designs that are common for all room types. The windows can only be opened up but not stay at a certain angle, which is unusual in German Architectures. This way when the wind blows strongly, the window will clap to the wall and make great sound. Because of the oriel design, there are some rooms only with one huge square-shaped window, which is almost impossible to open straightly to the other side of the wall, over the desktop.
The floor inside the apartment is made out of a concrete-alike material that is grey and rough. Heating comes from under the floor in the wintertime. The rough texture makes it hard to clean with a cloth, while the grey color gives a cold, distant feeling, along with the grey sofas in the living room.
The walls are all sound-proofed, which is a nice consideration done for the students, so that the residents are not largely influenced by the sound in the living room or in other bedrooms. However, when there is a party or very loud music going on in the living room, it is still hearable from the rooms that are close to the living room. Thus a better soundproofing could have been done for those rooms that are right next to the living room.
Despite all the disadvantages, at least science students should be happy living here, right? That is partly true, since Studentendorf Adlershof is within only a five minutes-walk from seminar and lecture rooms. However, to put it in another way, there is nothing except for academic buildings within the range of 10-minutes-walks. Because of the difficulty of finding apartments with reasonable prices in the city center, many science students and international exchange students choose to live here. After a 7-months-stay, many of them decided to leave, because of the remote location to the city center and a lack of leisure sites for young people. Apparently for young people, close to school is only one aspect of life. They seek for a neighborhood which is not too far away from school, but more importantly close to parks, clubs, markets and all lively, active urban locations.
On the balance of a beautiful outlook and the practical functionality, it is clear that for the design of Studentendorf Adlershof, the aesthetics side is favoured over the practical side. It is possibly a success on exterior appearance, but not so much on interior functionality. As someone who actually lives here, I have to say that many improvements could be done to make it function better and look more welcoming to remedy the location defects. At least we know that in ten years, the little trees in between the houses will grow taller and maybe therefore residents gain more privacy.
Photo Credits: Jing Zhou