Koelnmesse Headquarters
Collaborating on a climate-friendly metropolis
  • Location
  • Project
    New administration building for Koelnmesse
  • Procedure
    Competition (2020)
  • Client
    Koelnmesse GmbH
  • Architect of record
    Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer
  • Planning period
  • Gross floor area
    74,700 m²
  • Technical building equipment, Clima Design
    Ingenieurbüro Hausladen
  • Structural Engineering
    Werner Sobek
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Vizualizations
    Ingenieurbüro Hausladen

Even competitions we don’t win are of value to our practice; they allow us to find an exemplary solution, drawing on our knowledge and expertise. In the competition for the new headquarters of the Koelnmesse convention center, the Cobe team delivered the most convincing concept. But we can live with the jury’s reasoning that our design was “too homely” – that was precisely our intention. What matters to us most is that our design shows how sustainable construction can take many forms.

From parking lot to park and square

Our competition team brought together leading German sustainable building experts, including landscape architect Irène Djao Rakitine, Werner Sobek, and IB Hausladen. The site intended for Koelnmesse’s expansion lies east of the exhibition halls, prominently located by the Zoobrücke bridge. However, this area is currently dominated by extensive traffic infrastructure. As Cologne wants to and must become a climate-friendly metropolis, we proposed transforming the large, underutilized areas of the intended site into a lively and open green space. This new exhibition park continues the popular Rhine Park concept, featuring sports areas, playgrounds, mobility hub, water basin, beer garden, green amphitheater, and other activity zones under and around the bridge structures. The urban greenery not only caters to trade fair employees and visitors but also integrates neighboring residential areas through an interconnected bicycle and walking path network. This creates a positive synergy between social and ecological transformation.

Headquarters at the heart

We placed three distinct buildings as standalone structures within the new trade fair park. The first, the new headquarters building, is located opposite the current headquarters in the historic KHD high-rise building, featuring a forecourt set back from the street. Its intricately designed shell emphasizes the elegant lines of the facades, establishing a distinct and independent identity for the company headquarters. A green atrium brings natural light into the heart of the building, illuminating a large, open atrium area. This central atrium provides access to the conference space on the first floor, functional areas on the second floor, and administrative offices on the upper levels. Within this dynamic working environment, there are designated departmental zones, communicative zones, individual, team, and combination offices, as well as ample outdoor spaces for flexible project work. All floors have adaptable layouts made possible by incorporating building services into the floor, enabling open ceilings without beams or suspended elements. Similar to trade fair construction, the entire structure is prefabricated, including the timber-concrete composite ceilings. Prefabrication speeds up the construction process and optimizes the execution quality. All the materials are separable by type and fully recyclable, making the buildings durable reservoirs of reusable materials.

Envisioning for the future

The other two buildings are located on the southern section of the site, which was designated for future development in the ideas competition. A six-story parking garage echoes the height of the neighboring buildings, its circular segment hugging the green campus and continuing it vertically with green facades. A further highlight is a 21-story tower situated at the southernmost tip, anchoring the expanded trade fair complex in Cologne’s skyline and inviting the public to the top-floor Sky Lounge. This building complements the existing and planned high-rises in the Deutz development zone yet stays below the 90-meter maximum height established by the Cologneo II tower.

Project team