Poppenbüttel Community Centre


Assemble were invited to take part in a week long workshop in September 2017 as part of a competition to develop propositional ideas for a new self-build community centre in an area of new accommodation for refugees in Poppenbuttel, Hamburg.

The aim of the project was to develop a model for enfranchising new communities in the delivery of their infrastructure, supporting the integration of refugees into the neighbourbhood. The intention was to enable encounters between old and new neighbours, professionals and laypeople, the city and the project’s peripheral location.

Conceived and managed by HafenCity University Hamburg’s Urban Design department, five practices were invited to take part in the collaborative workshop, which took place on the development site in a temporary shelter. Each practice worked with newly settled refugees as well as architecture, industrial design and construction students to develop proposals for a spatial strategy for the new community centre as well as how it would be delivered and managed.

The Begegnungshaus was to be a new, significant civic building for the neighbourhood which would be reflected through its material character as well as its ongoing programme. The material approach should feel careful, long-term and secure, avoiding the temporary feel common to many self-build projects. At it’s heart it aimed to provide the kind of space that did not exist elsewhere within the housing development: a spacious, light, social hall capable of facilitating a broad spectrum of types and scales of collective use.

Assemble’s proposal extended the attitude of self-build beyond the construction methodology of the building, to the kind of culture it provided for and the activities it supported.

The design was characterised by generosity. Our design established the maximum usable volume of space through a cost-efficient structural approach. The overall form was a simple large insulated envelope, freeing up the space inside for improvisation and diverse uses. The ambition was that the first floor would also be formally activated in the future, when the project had further budget to invest in the fabric of the building.

The articulation of the envelope was key in terms of the relationship between the building and the rest of the site. Through large openings at ground floor, and a continuous glazed clerestory, it would be animated, showing or alluding to the activity that is happening inside. This animated facade was accentuated by hand-made awnings which opened over hard landscaping, to provide a sheltered public perimeter that would encourage informal occupation.