maxfrei
An empty space in the urban landscape is filled with life – for living, working, playing, and community
  • Location
    Düsseldorf
  • Project
    New construction of two office and commercial buildings with daycare centre and service point (construction site 1, 2a),
    New construction of a residential building with underground car park (construction site 2b)
  • Procedure
    1st prize competition
  • Client
    Projektentwicklungsgesellschaft Ulmenstraße mbH & Co. KG vertreten von Interboden und Hamburg Team
  • Architect of record
    Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer
  • Technical building equipment
    Winter Ingenieure, Düsseldorf
  • Structural engineering
    WSK Ingenieure, Düsseldorf
  • Fire Protection
    Gruner GmbH, Köln
  • Landscape architecture
    studio grüngrau, Düsseldorf
  • Planning and construction period
    2019–
  • Service phases
    1–5
  • Gross floor area (AG/BG)
    18,450 m²/8,250 m² (Office and retail);
    3,559 m²/1,350 m² (Living)
  • Visualizations
    bloomimages
  • Photos
    HGEsch

Ulmer Höh prison once stood in the heart of Düsseldorf’s Derendorf district, hidden behind high walls. In 2012, it relocated to a new facility on the city outskirts, leaving behind a 3.5-hectare void in the urban fabric that needed thoughtful integration after 120 years, rather than just being filled or patched up. The site was initially completely cleared, with only the historic chapel spared. Now, with a new secular purpose, it serves as a cornerstone for the vibrant new quarter emerging around it. The name “maxfrei” symbolizes a fresh start in this space of maximum freedom. The area has been reimagined to accommodate over 500 apartments, fostering a dynamic neighborhood. This includes around 200 privately financed residences, 170 subsidized apartments, and 170 subsidized student apartments. Additionally, there are approximately 15,000 square meters of commercial space for local retail, restaurants, and a daycare center. The new quarter is digitally connected through a neighborhood app, while thoughtfully designed open spaces, green areas, and playgrounds offer direct, personal settings for residents to meet and interact.

A Vibrant Center

Our contribution to the new Ulmer Höh development comprises two blocks forming part of a sustainable urban mix that flanks the chapel and the town square before it, extending a welcoming gesture. The light-colored clinker brick and continuous perforated facade grid lend a uniform, serene presence to Ulmer Strasse. The facing residential and commercial buildings recede in three tiers, allowing light, space, and life to thrive around the square and chapel. It’s getting greener, too – a small cluster of deciduous trees provides shade, complemented by greenery on balconies and roof terraces, enhancing the friendly views and improving the microclimate. The uses on the ground floor offer many opportunities for new residents to gather, whether for daily shopping, coffee, ice cream, or evening meal; the neighborhood service center is also located here. We are transforming this place, isolated behind high walls for far too long, into a vibrant, valuable addition to the city, harmoniously integrated into the broader urban fabric.

An Urban Community

On the street-facing side, both buildings offer 17,500 square meters of flexible office space. The contemporary layout grid is designed to be flexible and practical, accommodating both classic and open-plan configurations in units ranging from 400 to 7,000 square meters. Terraces and views overlooking the green square are integral features of each workplace, enhancing the overall working environment. With 27 residential units ranging from one to four bedrooms, we are fostering a diverse neighborhood catering to a variety of lifestyles. All apartments have an outdoor seating area, whether a balcony, loggia, roof garden or private yard, depending on the location within the building. The two ground-floor guest apartments are a special feature, available for booking through the neighborhood app. The landscaped outdoor area for the daycare center and the public playground directly connect to the neighborhood’s green central space, serving as integral elements of urban life. To prioritize pedestrian-friendly spaces, maxfrei remains car-free, with all vehicles parked in an underground garage, supported by excellent public transportation connections.

Project team
  • Bárbara Climent Silvar
  • Azadeh Najib
  • Olaf Frömling
  • Nazanin Afshari
  • Sarah Bauer
  • Paula Beham
  • Fidelius Bezzenberger
  • Yannick Bilsdorfer
  • Albert Bronder
  • Nadine Domaschke
  • Eike Heidelberg
  • Timo Heinzmann
  • Martin Mellis
  • Sven Michels
  • Jana Klindworth
  • Sebastian Oertel
  • Estella Orlando
  • Fabian Reckers
  • Maren Richter
  • Guido Roth
  • David Schlaht
  • Jakob Wogrolly
  • Angeline Ziegler