Urban Agency



  Urban Agency together with Karres+Brands and Urbanization.dk have won the opportunity to transform the Maria Hilf Hospital Area into a vibrant urban neighborhood! The site is located at the edge of the historical center of Mönchengladbach and in the coming two years the city plans to establish a new dense neighbourhood. The hospital functions will be abandoned and the site will begin its transformation into a new urban neighborhood with strong connections to the surrounding urban fabric. Our proposal is defined by a robust urban framework, with terraces of building blocks and new barrier-free path meandering through the site. It bridges the gap between the lowest and highest point to create level-free access for all. The path exemplifies our primary vision for Maria Hilf Terraces; to create a new urban neighborhood for all. During a one week workshop, five selected teams worked intensely in collaboration with local citizens and stakeholders to develop a future vision for the old hospital site. Today the site is strongly divided by fences, closed perimeter blocks and a height difference of almost ten meters. The topography is a distinctive feature of Maria Hilf, but at the same time forms an unbridgeable barrier for the elderly and disabled citizens of Mönchengladbach. In the winning masterplan we introduce a series of plateaus that spread out the concentrated height difference of the site and mimics the characteristics of the surrounding city. A barrier-free path forms the backbone of the new neighbourhood and seamlessly bridges the gap between the lowest and the highest point of the site. The path meanders through the site, creating a string of public spaces, drawing upon the DNA of Mönchengladbach. It opens up to impressive views and strengthens visual connections to important landmarks; expanding into local squares and narrowing down to smaller streets, with stairs leading up to the next terrace or a local courtyard. Maria Hilf Terraces is our future vision, to create a City for All. Maria Hilf Terraces is not only a lively urban neighbourhood, but is also an important new connection in the city. The site links the old town and the Buntergarten to the north and forming the missing puzzle piece in the series of green parks and public spaces running from south to north of the city. Today the characteristic perimeter block structure forms a strong outer edge towards its surroundings, and closes off the site. The redesigning of the surrounding streets is therefore an important part of our masterplan. By opening up the block and highlighting important pedestrian connections, the masterplan strengthens the pedestrian network for the citizens of Mönchengladbach, activates the bordering streets and ensures a complete integration of the new neighbourhood into the urban fabric of Mönchengladbach. Within the site, the outline of the terraces (development plots), were also informed by the surrounding city. Together with the pedestrian connections, important sight lines point towards the icons of Mönchengladbach; the highest point of the site, with the protected chapel tower of Maria Hilf, the old chimneys of the former textile factory to the south-east and the church towers of the old town. The DNA of Mönchengladbach is hereby pulled into the development area and forms a robust urban framework, with an assemblage of public spaces, green gardens and clear lines of sight. The existing and new green structures together form a generous buffer between the new buildings and their neighbours. The framework of the masterplan provides a variety of possibilities for residential typologies; from buildings in the green, apartments overlooking the landscape or the possibility of smaller development groups. As a continuous line through the plan, the urban development mimics the DNA of the city, with its colourful variety of facades, a strong defined edge to the outside and an open courtyard with a richness of recesses, extensions and notches, creating an exciting edge zone between the courtyard and the building. Terracing the site ensures furthermore an optimization of sunlight and views towards the city for the future development and creates comfortable microclimates, protected from the southern winds. To develop Maria Hilf into a significant part of the city, we have drawn upon the characteristics of Mönchengladbach. The overlay of dense urban building structure and topographical features as an essential feature of the city, reflected in plateaus, stairs, ramps and terracing. Churches, towers and monuments mark the topographic high points of the city. The variation and variety of facades within the perimeter block development, where each individual block is often composed of individual detached houses. These characteristics together form the historical Mönchengladbach DNA and are the starting point for a new urban development, which frames the essence of the city. See more information about the competition: here.

Size: 79,500 m²

Location: Mönchengladbach, Germany

Collaborators: Urban Agency, Karres+Brands, Urbanization.dk

Type: Invited Competition

Status: Competition 1st Prize

Team: Henning Stüben, Heechan Park, Borja Santurino, Jose Luis Villar Pastor

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