Lidl took a bold step by partnering with us to explore building without a traditional construction kit.
  • Location
    Köln Buchforst
  • Project
    New construction of a Lidl
  • Procedure
    Competition (1st prize)
  • Client
    Lidl Dienstleistung GmbH & Co. KG vertreten durch Lidl Immobilienbüro West GmbH & Co. KG
  • Architect of record
    Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer
  • Planning and construction period
  • Service phases
    1–4, 5, artistic supervision
  • Gross floor area
    2.550 m²
  • Awards
    Iconic Awards 2020
  • Photos
  • This project is from the joint period of meyerschmitzmorkramer.
Lidl is Beautiful

Germans love getting great value on their groceries. But the market, shared by supermarkets and discounters, is fiercely competitive. Low prices alone are no longer enough to attract and keep customers. Offering more organic options, fresher produce, enticing bakery aromas, and engaging social media campaigns are modernizing the image – but can shopping at a familiar, ubiquitous store truly become a unique experience? Lidl stores can be found in 30 countries worldwide, traditionally with a classic pitched roof or, since 2015, with a flat roof and fully glazed front. In 2015, the retail giant ventured into architecture,  launching a competition to design a location-specific store in Cologne-Buchforst. We really wanted to show that fast and cheap isn’t everything. So we reimagined the “discounter” typology to contribute to its neighborhood beyond just providing inexpensive food. Our design’s thoughtful approach convinced them. Since its opening in 2019, the enhanced architecture, design, and local integrity have positively impacted the cityscape. Corporate identity here means an individual, tailor-made solution with a distinctive, recognizable flair.

A Generous Gesture

The Buchforst neighborhood features simple four- to six-floor apartment buildings in rows, notably the Blaue Hof and the Weisse Stadt – pioneering housing estates from the late 1920s designed by architects Riphahn and Grod, which set new standards in both design and concept. Adjacent to the Lidl site is a row of brick residential buildings, also listed as historic structures. Their materiality served as inspiration for the new Lidl building. With its double-height volume and flat roof, the new Lidl takes up the stepped descent of the gabled residential buildings along Kalk-Mülheimer Strasse. The slender building reaches further back thanks to a recessed extension. Access to the parking lot and delivery area is from Karlsruher Strasse. The market’s entrance is at the building’s open corner, where a forecourt features benches and street lamps bridging the private and public realms –anyone can sit and linger here. It’s great that the company has taken responsibility for enhancing this public space, even if it’s just a tiny area at a busy intersection.

“Building a beautiful Lidl could be a bigger challenge than building a good museum.”

A Sense of Order

The facades of the Lidl store also reflect a commitment to high-quality design. We opted for a double-shell facade made of brick, a material that signals building culture, not just consumption. The brick cladding opens up fully at the entrance corner, providing a view of the inner glass facade behind. Along the sides, the brickwork transitions into slender columns, forming an arcade that neatly accommodates shopping cart queues and bicycles, contributing to an orderly overall impression. Discounters are usually recognizable from afar, but here you need a second glance, because the striking logo with the yellow circle in the blue square was not mounted prominently on the exterior but somewhat set back on the glass surfaces. It’s still highly visible, but not blatant. Inside, the sales area benefits from the building’s height, with the exposed wide-span glulam ceiling beams visible. Does the store in Buchforst mark a turning point in discount store architecture? Will all markets soon resemble museums? Here, as elsewhere, investing more – be it money, time, or thought – results in significantly greater value. We are glad to support cities and towns demanding a higher standard of building design from omnipresent companies like Lidl, whose parent company, Schwarz Group, is, after all, the largest retail group in Europe.

Project team