Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck The Past Remains Present

Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck | Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier

Today, 72 years after the bombing of Lübeck, the so called Schüsselbuden is once again a harmonious street in the historic centre of this old Hanseatic city. With the reconstruction of the Ulrich Gabler House on the Alfstraße corner property, a bit of urban repair has succeeded in the midst of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, the historic centre, that both in terms of design as well as use connects with history and is at the same time refreshingly contemporary.

It is always distressing to see how long it takes until the devastated residues of the Second World War in cities and landscapes are once again filled with life. Once commercial buildings with artfully stepped corbie and tail gables from the 17th century and older stood before the westwork of the mighty Church of St Mary of Lübeck in the business quarter. As early as the Middle Ages, sales rooms for bowls and other handicraft products lined the way – hence the name of the street. According to archaeological investigations in the 1980’s, what was left of the earlier buildings was surrounding walls and stumps of pillars from a stone building from the gothic period.

Adaptation to the cityscape

Plans for developing the property, which had lain desolate after 1945, were dashed repeatedly. Only in 2009 did movement come into the plans for construction, with the Ulrich Gabler Foundation as builder and the announcement of a contest for invited architects. The architectural firm of Georg Konermann-Dall and Ingo Siegmund based in Hamburg and Lübeck won the contest and was commissioned in 2010 to realize the building. The adaptation to the existing cityscape with its brick facades and gable roofs, a requirement in the contest, remained obligatory for the reconstruction on the corner property. Nonetheless, the architects were able to win over the foundation to their concept of opening up the facade with glass surfaces and making visible the concrete elements of the interior spaces. Through this corner glass front in the ground floor, passersby can also see the massive remnants of walls of the once magnificent stone building.

Zigzag paper-cut silhouette

The body of the Ulrich Gabler House is structured in such a way that the historic situation with slight projections and recesses and the six unequally steep gables can be experienced once again. The gable triangles each with only one window are impressively clear, no ornamentation, no gutters or downpipes disturb their precise, sharp-edged character. Viewed from the rear, they appear before the rough masonry of the Church of St Mary with its spectrum of all possible shades of red like a zigzag paper-cut silhouette set up against the sky.
 
  • Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier
    Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
  • Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier
    Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
  • Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier
    Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
  • Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier
    Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
  • Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier
    Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
  • Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier
    Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
  • Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck Photo: Fotografie Dorfmüller Krüger Klier
    Ulrich Gabler House Lübeck
The house entrances are high and set deeply into the facade, the different rhythm of the high, rectangular windows join almost flush with the exterior surfaces. The uniform facing with a light-coloured waterstruck bricks is restrained, simple and yet sensuous, contrasting with the surroundings with the facades’ dominant shades of red with pleasing clarity. The approval of the City of Lübeck’s architectural advisory board enabled the realisation of this distinctive feature; nonetheless, the architects were required to replace the originally planned grey roof covering with a red one.

The past remains present

The wish for clarity in design and honesty in dealing with construction, colour and materials becomes instantly clear upon entering the building. Exposed concrete, steel, wood, shades of white and grey govern the restrained concept in the interior spaces. The six meter high, inclined concrete supports run over two storeys and leave the historic masonry untouched.

The past remains present everywhere. This also holds for the building’s usage. With a sales and display space for handicraft products of the Vorwerker Diakonie, a pottery workshop, weaving mill and candy-maker’s on the ground floor, a bridge to the history of the Schüsselboden has been built. The Ulrich Gabler House, with a total effective surface of 3200 m², offers a wide range of uses and is an inclusive project.

Diversity in unity

In the basement is a café, a coffee-roasting facility and a cafeteria, on the second storey offices for the Diakonie and workshops for handicapped persons. The upper storeys, with their bright, high spaces and an expansive roof terrace are the new location of the Gisa Feuerberg School, a vocational training school for Social Care. The rear-facing part of the new building, accessed from the west side of the Alfstraße, is used by a police station All spaces are barrier-free and accessible from the stairwells by lifts.
Diversity in unity is at once the motto and precondition for revitalising and upgrading neighbourhoods and urban spaces. Designing inclusive spaces as integrated places with immediate presence is a signal and conscious statement for an open, cosmopolitan society. In this sense, Lübeck was a leader even in the days of the Hanseatic League.