Karolinger Höfe
We fill the space while keeping the quarter permeable, integrating it into the city.
  • Location
    Düsseldorf
  • Project
    New construction of a residential area (site 2), urban design and supervision of the development plan.
  • Procedure
    Competition (1st prize)
  • Client
    BPD Immobilienentwicklung GmbH
  • Architect of record
    Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer
  • Planning and construction period
    2014–2019
  • Service phases
    1–5
  • Gross floor area (AG/BG)
    12,600 m²/5,800 m²
  • Awards
    Iconic Awards 2020;
    German Design Award 2021
  • Photos
    HGEsch
  • This project is from the joint period of meyerschmitzmorkramer.

It was time for something new. Once home to a paper factory, then Germany’s first Ferrari workshop, this site now marks a new chapter. Since 2019, the Düsseldorf district of Bilk has been home to a family-friendly, future-forward residential quarter known as Karolinger Höfe. In 2012, we won the competition to transform the 1.76-hectare site; our vision focused on urban repair, integrating valuable living space on a human scale within the existing urban fabric. Developer BPD Immobilienentwicklung created a verdant residential quarter with 340 residential units in total, 121 of which are in the apartment buildings we designed for the second construction phase.

Good Urban Density

Karolinger Höfe is situated within Düsseldorf’s historic Gründerzeit belt, an inner-city area known for its 19th-century urban development, and to the north it borders the verdant course of the Düssel River, a tributary of the Rhein. This project presented a significant and rare opportunity to reimagine nearly an entire city block. Our approach involved learning from the existing structures, embracing sustainable practices, and incorporating modern enhancements. We followed the urban design of closed perimeter blocks that is characteristic of the surrounding neighborhood, with buildings rising to a maximum of five to six stories. We integrated three openings into the urban fabric, so the development does not simply break off but grows into the surrounding quarter. This interconnected design fosters a density that contributes to a contemporary urban feel. However, we view the green spaces between the buildings as the social glue: three squares with different characters, gardens, open spaces, and playgrounds that bring the neighborhood to life. To ensure that cars do not occupy valuable outdoor space, all parking is underground at Karolinger Höfe. Additionally, we provided 960 bicycle parking spaces to support sustainable transportation options.

“We don’t want to think in terms of isolated buildings, but rather in terms of urban spaces. How can we reintroduce open spaces and public squares to benefit the community? As life moves into the cities, architecture has the opportunity to evolve alongside it.”

Building a Good Neighborhood

Our buildings at Karolinger Höfe showcase diverse cubatures with staggered heights and positioning; some are closer to the front, while others are set further back, embellished with loggias, terraces, and balconies. The facades, constructed in different shades of light brown clinker brick, present a cohesive appearance while maintaining a lively aesthetic. Inside, intelligently designed floor plans in two- to five-room apartments ensure efficient use of space, making inner-city living affordable for both families and individuals. Notably, bats have taken up residence in the Karolinger Höfe – a desired and welcomed occurrence. To safeguard the endangered species, bat roosts were integrated into the attics, allowing humans and animals to coexist under one roof in the heart of the city, often without even knowing it.

Project team