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Two rooms for the future

Does quality of living depend on the size of the home? No, it doesn’t, if we are to believe the architects of CBAG studio. They’ve redesigned the two rooms of a Berlin family’s apartment in a bid to optimize the available space. Experts are proving them right – the growing population density in cities is crying out for a new approach.

The price of residential real estate in German cities is currently spiraling upward. And rents are rising at the same time. In Berlin, for instance, purchasers right across all districts are having to reckon with an average price of EUR 2,500 per square meter – an increase of almost 10 percent over the previous year. In top-flight inner-city locations, the asking price can be twice this figure or more. This upward thrust is being accompanied by another trend: the conversion of rented accommodation into condominiums that still promise investors, in some cases after large-scale modernization, high return on investment. The number of converted properties rose by almost 25 percent in a single year. Top of the list are the fashionable districts of Friedrichshain, Neukölln, and Charlottenburg and Prenzlauer Berg. This is also where Andreas and Katrin live with their son Anton in a small apartment of their own. A pleasant neighborhood with high quality of life – their friends are here, and so is the daycare facility. And yet they were considering moving out.

A two-room apartment undergoes transformation. The project started with removal of a drywall to create space for new ideas.

The family lives in two rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom. It will soon be high time that Anton gets his own room. So what are the options? Let the apartment and rent another apartment elsewhere? Sell up and invest the profit in a larger, three- or four-room apartment? Neither option appealed to the young couple. In view of rocketing prices on the Berlin property market, they would have to pay much more in future when moving home within their neighborhood. Berlin is growing. In the last three years, Germany’s capital has attracted some 135,000 new residents, swelling the population to 3.5 million. A trend that, according to numerous forecasts, is set to continue. The demand for additional residential space is put accordingly at about 125,000 units. In fact, however, only a fraction of this is actually being met – not even 9,000 single-family homes and apartments were built in 2014. Vacant properties are practically non-existent, with the figure at less than 2 percent. And that leaves only one outcome, say the experts: residential space per person will fall in the medium and long term. In Berlin, this is currently at a relatively roomy 35 square meters – compared to 25 in London and a paltry 15 in New York. Only if we are willing to tolerate less space will living in city centers be feasible for broad sections of the population. For “feasible” please read “affordable”.

The family lives in two rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom. It will soon be high time that Anton gets his own room. So what are the options? Let the apartment and rent another apartment elsewhere? Sell up and invest the profit in a larger, three- or four-room apartment? Neither option appealed to the young couple. In view of rocketing prices on the Berlin property market, they would have to pay much more in future when moving home within their neighborhood. Berlin is growing. In the last three years, Germany’s capital has attracted some 135,000 new residents, swelling the population to 3.5 million. A trend that, according to numerous forecasts, is set to continue. The demand for additional residential space is put accordingly at about 125,000 units. In fact, however, only a fraction of this is actually being met – not even 9,000 single-family homes and apartments were built in 2014. Vacant properties are practically non-existent, with the figure at less than 2 percent. And that leaves only one outcome, say the experts: residential space per person will fall in the medium and long term. In Berlin, this is currently at a relatively roomy 35 square meters – compared to 25 in London and a paltry 15 in New York. Only if we are willing to tolerate less space will living in city centers be feasible for broad sections of the population. For “feasible” please read “affordable”.

1: Courage to change: The kitchen has to make way for the children’s bedroom.
2: A question of ingenuity: A room’s almost endless potential has to be efficiently exploited.
3: The architects of CBAG studio explore new ways of using space. But are people willing to live differently?
4: The sleeping cube with its industrial charm is made of OSB, which is inexpensive and space-saving and matches the furniture.


For Andreas and Katrin, this willingness to accept less was also the solution to their dilemma. However, like many others, they refused to equate diminished space with diminished comfort – so new ideas and good planning were called for. Both came from Christina Beaumont and Achim Gergen of architects CBAG studio. The two of them started their own firm eight years ago, not in bustling boom town Berlin, but in sedate Saarlouis. Quite a contrast considering their stints with such celebrated architects as Zaha Hadid and the Dutchman Rem Koolhaas. But now they are freer – also because, having found their feet on the market, they can now afford to only take on those projects that genuinely inspire them. Such as making the most of limited space in Prenzlauer Berg.

1: Creating new living space does not necessarily mean building from scratch. By shifting the walls, room functions have been re-thought.
2: The sleeping cube is more a piece of furniture than a bedroom.


Such as making the most of limited space in Prenzlauer Berg. Here, the two architects have re-organized room use. The old kitchen is now Anton’s bedroom, while an open kitchen has been integrated in the living room which in turn also doubles up as the couple’s bedroom. But if the parents don’t want to sleep in the middle of their living and dining area, that cannot be the end of the story. Together with several intelligent inbuilt units, the solution includes an enclosed sleeping cube integrated in the newly created large room. This contains space for the bed and 35 centimeters of space on either side of it. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s quite enough for the two of them. Openness to new ideas and even willingness to compromise are definitely required. Ultimately, say architects Beaumont and Gergen, it boils down to a single question: Are we willing to change our living habits just a little?

 It’s incredible how much potential a room has – depending on how you make use of it.

Christina Beaumont
1: Before conversion it was important to gauge how small is big enough. The sleeping cube offers 35 cm of space on either side of the bed.
2: The kitchen makes way for a children’s bedroom and is now integrated in the living and dining area.
3: Other items of furniture are made of OSB: A fitted wardrobe system, a coverable work area, and bench seating.

The ideal home in confined space

More space within one’s four walls thanks to a willingness to compromise

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