Former US Consulate General
This architectural icon required minimal enhancements to bring it up to modern standards
  • Location
    Düsseldorf
  • Project
    Revitalization of a listed building
  • Client
    Deutsche Bestattungsvorsorge Treuhand AG
  • Architect of record
    Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer
  • Planning and construction period
    2014–2017
  • Service phases
    1–5, 8 (künsterlische Oberleitung)
  • Gross floor area (AG/BG)
    2,100/510 m²
  • Awards
    German Design Award 2019;
    Iconic Awards 2018
  • Photos
    HGEsch
  • This project is from the joint period of meyerschmitzmorkramer.

Built in 1953, the former US Consulate General on Cecilienallee in Düsseldorf, exemplifies the International Style of the era. The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) of Chicago and made architectural history not only because it was replicated four times in different German cities, but also because it bears the distinctive signature of Gordon Bunshaft, a partner at SOM at the time, who was honored with the Pritzker Prize in 1988. After the consulate relocated in 1990, the ensemble was designated as a listed building and underwent several modernizations before being acquired by Deutsche Bestattungsvorsorge Treuhand AG in 2014. The new owner entrusted us to comprehensively refurbish, modernize, and upgrade the energy efficiency of this understated yet iconic structure. We planned and implemented our interventions and improvements with great care and appreciation for the original design.

Light and heavy

SOM designed the Consulate General in collaboration with German architect Otto Apel as an ensemble comprising an elevated four-floor administrative wing and a low, perpendicular entrance hall. The taller, steel skeleton structure houses three office floors and exudes a sense of strict order and while embodying maximum modernity. Rarely do proportions and joints achieve such harmony, with meticulous execution of materials and construction resulting in the illusion of weightlessness for both steel and stone. The entrance hall offers a striking juxtaposition. It appears as if the base of the office building has been rotated 90 degrees from underneath, leaving one end positioned beneath it. This structure emphasizes representation, solidity, and support, its walls clad in black marble throughout. At the intersection of these two buildings lies the entrance foyer, with vertical access along the rear facade. A third structure, added later, mirrors the office building, creating a sheltered inner courtyard.

New and old

Monument protection, climate protection, and worker protection were all important goals, and achieving them economically presented a significant challenge that we willingly embraced. While heritage conservation necessitated preserving the facade, considerations of building physics like climate control and soundproofing argued for replacing it. As a solution, we opted to rebuild the facade to meet contemporary standards. We replicated the slim window profiles of the original 1950s design while complying with modern regulations. The facade appears nearly identical today, due in part to the reinstatement of the valuable original travertine spandrels. However, the interior presented a different scenario. With little original material left, we had the freedom to reimagine the space through our design. We invoked the mid-century modern style though our choice of colors, materials, and elegantly designed forms.

Open and focused

Treuhand AG utilizes the entrance hall for communication and meetings, where we introduced a new reception desk amid the black marble walls and Jura stone floors. The expansive space has been partitioned to accommodate meeting rooms of various sizes, a cafeteria offering views of the inner courtyard, and a small library. A highly functional inner was introduced, serving as a hub for a variety of utilitarian items, technical infrastructure, storage, and colorful seating. The three office floors within the main building adhere to a consistent grid layout, featuring larger individual offices facing the street and smaller ones overlooking the garden on the sides. This structured arrangement transitions into an open zone for informal interactions and services, situated adjacent to the glass-walled staircase.

Project team