The topography of the site and its surroundings were an important contributor to the design approach of the new fire station in Cologne. The design aims to project the centre as a powerful, distinctive ensemble of buildings around an open courtyard, while still adhering to the city planning goals and its functional requirements.
Planning stipulations required integration with the existing buildings. A creative cohesion is achieved through the arrangement of structured façades that provide a calmness to the ensemble of buildings. The result is a spatial continuum, which is effectively underlined by the horizontal structure of the differentiated façades.
Functionality and inner development
The main five-storey building along Gummersbacher Straße houses garaging for 18 fire and rescue vehicles, as well as, rest and recreation areas, a kitchen and dining area and sports hall. The fire station also acts as a central hub for goods, materials and equipment for all fire stations in Cologne, along with provisions for a volunteer fire department.
The internal spaces within the main building reflect the typical requirements of a building of this type. Functionality and direct access to the rescue vehicles from the recreational areas dominates the footprint.
Architecture, materiality and façade design
The architecture for the fire station is characterized by a few, striking and robust materials. Compact technical functionality is formed through 3 mm hot dip galvanized steel panels, the use of which helps to delineate the building from its more mundane surroundings, while providing continuity.
The selected materiality stands for robustness, technical solidity and durability which align with the values and self-image that Cologne fire brigade want to portray. A key characteristic of batch hot dip galvanizing – natural variations within the coating – was an important element for the architects’ material selection. The combination of this variation and a coating that is almost alive ensured vibrancy and lightness to the large façade area, avoiding a heavy monotonous design. Added expression and fluidity is provided by vertical profiles that run horizontally along the façade.
Ornamental pilaster strips installed floor to floor at different spacings, made from rectangular anodised aluminium profiles, add further depth to the façade.
Façade construction with fire-plated steel plate panels
The traditional back-ventilated façade system was not incorporated for the fire station, it was decided to mount the galvanized façade on a series of T sections that were connected to the outer wall penetrating 16 cm thick insulating material. The T sections were thermally decoupled by lining material, effectively minimizing the number of constructive cold bridges.