‘The new building for the financial and service centre of the Volksbank is situated at the central pedestrian zone of the city Gifhorn, which runs in north-south direction. Defining for the formulation of the design is the historically grown typology of the buildings in the city of Gifhorn. As the development originates in a ribbon-built village at the Steinweg, the historic city is defined by mostly narrow and deep half-timbered houses with gables facing the street between which small alleys form the connection between public urban space and privately utilised green space.
Within the past two centuries many of these so-called ‘Ackerbürgerhäuser’ have been transformed to civil town houses with hip roofs whose eaves run parallel to the street.
The new building for the Volksbank in Gifhorn readopts the structure of the historic ground plan of the city including the original ‘Ackerbürgerhäuser’ whose gables face the streets and which are divided by narrow alleys. However, the minimalistic architectural language radically reduces the historical shape of the building to its basic elements gable, roof cladding and alley.
The building ensemble is divided into two independent buildings which run together in a sharp angle. Between them an alley opens up in whose centre a glass rotunda – the ‘Market Square’ of the Volksbank – is located. The bright and 24-hours-open rotunda serves as a hinge between public urban space, interior space of the building and private green space and connects the flexibly separable business premises and offices of both buildings with each other.
Both mainly closed – poured in excellent béton brut – gable walls deliberately take up the height development of the neighbouring buildings. In contrast to this, the building envelope of the lying in between longitudinal walls and roof areas is covered with pug-coloured elements and opens up to the patio with ceiling-high glazing – equal to a curtain.
The deliberate arrangement of closed and opening facades results in tension-filled insights in and views on the city and the landscape of Gifhorn. Even in the design they already followed energetic and ecological aspects.
In this way, the offices profit from natural daylight from the north. On the contrary, the southern side of the building envelope including the adjacent roof areas are covered with pug-coloured elements in a thermally effective way. Additionally, only adjacent rooms acting as ‘climatic buffers’ are arranged at this side. As a result, the summery energy input is being reduced significantly and the costs of air-conditioning are being minimised. The public areas on the ground-floor are being tempered by a low-temperature-floor-heating-system in order to provide dry floors during a reduced demand of heating energy. In interaction with a cooling and heating of the building only by means of air-heat pumps, energy- and operating costs can be cut by more than 25%.
During the day all areas of usage of the building can be accessed from the central market square. On the ground-floor consultancy offices for private clients are located in direct connection to the market square and the waiting area. The offices of the corporate account officers and the real estate department are being accessed by a representative staircase.
The other offices for external service providers are located on the third floor and in the attic of the higher building.
Thanks to the skilful arrangement of stairwells and footbridges, a very flexible distribution of usage and unbundling, as well as connection of access paths is possible. On the second floor the access route to the neighbouring building Steinweg 47 can also be found.
An event location takes up the whole attic of the northern building and can also be used for external events. The arrangement in the attic ensures a ceiling height that corresponds with the usage of the room. Thereby the shape of the gable with its spacious attic windows for a natural lighting gives the room its special quality.
Based on the formation and organisation of the buildings in the design, a back side of the building ensemble towards the patio has been avoided deliberately. The former wide parking areas have been reduced significantly and partly relocated to the underground car park beneath the building. Consequently, space could be created in order to extensively plant greenery on the courtyard areas which are already visible when looking through the rotunda from the Steinweg.’