District adult education centre, Wolfenbüttel
Architecture is frozen music.
One undeveloped site remained at Nos. 4 and 5 Harzstrasse within an almost completely self-contained row of buildings, typically half-timbered houses under conservation orders. The neighbouring structure at 3 Harzstrasse is already occupied by an adult education centre. At the beginning of the planning period, the building at 6 Harzstrasse was converted into an office of civil engineering for the district administration. Both buildings adjacent to the site have the same structural characteristics (eaves parallel to the street, visible half-timbering, tiled roofs, projecting elements). They differ, however, in their varying roof pitches, and in the height of their eaves and ridges. The challenge was to build a new extension to the adult education centre which would fill the existing gap at 3 Harzstrasse, so as to enable it to cope with the existing level of demand.
The architectural problems raised by the project were many and varied. Firstly, the required floor spaces had to be related to the existing parts of the structure in a way that made sense and was on the same scale, and the site had to be able to accommodate them. Secondly – and this was undoubtedly the more difficult problem to resolve – the new building had to be conceived in such a way as to bear the unequivocal hallmark of contemporary design without at the same time dissociating itself too much from its surroundings. It was also important to respect the complex room allocation plan for the district adult education centre, the district library and the district rental centre for educational films, so that they were fit for purpose and well integrated with the existing older structure.
The main building in Harzstrasse was given an externally visible steel skeleton construction as suggested by the architects. This is a filigree rendition of the existing structures of the half-timbered buildings which transposes them to the modern day, with its contemporary materials. In this way, the building develops its own personality within the ensemble, without detracting from the existing property. It does not assume a subordinate role, however, by ingratiating itself as far as form is concerned, but asserts itself whilst accepting the differences which exist in spite of the structural similarity. The horizontal gradations of the floors and of the front projection create additional analogies with the detail of the historic buildings. At the same time, the projection draws attention towards the entrance.
To offset the different roof pitches and heights of the eaves and ridges of the adjacent buildings, wide joints were used to tie this extension to the existing building fabric. This trick of design made it possible to avoid ugly roof lines and outlines and clashes in style.