It’s difficult when more than three-quarters of a city’s buildings are destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people are in need of a safe place to live to prioritise architecturally significant buildings. So Cologne did not. Most of what was built in the 1950s came from the ‘ASAP’ school of architecture. Eventually though, there was some cash spare, and architects were given the chance to build something that would really stand out.
Like the Fernsehturm in Berlin, the T-Mobile tower in Cologne is a major skyline landmark. A quick tour through the souvenir section of any shop will show the twin Dom towers and the modern spaceship on a stick defining the Cologne skyline. Finished in 1981, and standing 266m tall, including the radio tower point, Colonius had a restaurant, office space and a viewing platform. Since the 1990s however, the tower has had no tenant and functions only as a very tall billboard for mobile phone provider T-Mobile.
Cologne’s narrowest building is just 2.56 meters wide and 30 meters long, so narrow that it doesn’t even have its own walls. One of the key points in Arno Brandlhuber’s renovation was to use the walls of the neighbouring houses as the interior walls in order to save space. 40cm is the difference between tight but useable and a storage cupboard. It cost about €550,000 to build in 1997 and has won numerous awards in the meantime.
Known as one of the architectural icons of the popular German architect Gottfried Bohm, the building was actually designed by his wife Elisabeth and son Peter. The mostly glass building is home to the offices, cafeteria and studio for the Cologne broadcaster WDR. Even now, glass and steel is not such a common medium for building in Cologne and even more unusually, the playful building, now 30 years old, has aged well.
It’s quite a bold statement for a clothing store to commission their building from one of the world’s leading architects. Peek & Cloppenburg does it for every single one of their German shops. The Cologne branch, a spectacular glass building on Europe’s busiest shopping street designed by Renzo Piano opened in 2005. Called the Weltstadthaus, or World City Building, the 4900 m² glass façade is constructed from 6800 individual panes and 66 laminated beams made from Siberian larch.
When the old Cologne port was rezoned for commercial and residential use in the early 2000s, architects swarmed to renovate the old warehouses and build new, imaginative buildings on the now-available land. The Kranhäuser, or Crane Buildings, were designed by Alfons Linster and Hadi Teherani to gesture towards the loading cranes that used to line the docks. The set of three includes 16,000 square meters of office space and 133 luxury apartments.
Designed by Gottfried Böhm in 1960, the Brutalist, asymmetric St Gertrude, built entirely from concrete won the Cologne Architecture Prize in 1967. Inside, the nave resembles a cave and is lit to create warmth and calm. The thick wall keeps out the noise from the train tracks, and the sparse decoration continues the minimal theme. Three chapels with high, pointed rooflines and a 40m tower face the street.
The focal point of MediaPark, a completely new neighbourhood near Christophstraße in the centre of the city, is a 148m-tall KölnTurm designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The rest of the project, which includes office space for over 250 companies employing 5,000 people was designed by Eberhard Zeidler and took 14 years to build. The buildings are surrounded by parks along the train tracks, and a small lake. Major tenants include EMI Germany, the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences and musikFabrik.
Finally opening in June of 2017 after years of construction delays and disagreements, the DITIB Mosque in Ehrenfeld is determined to be a place for all Kölners. The architect, Paul Böhm, is the son of the church-building architect Gottfried Böhm. Visitors are encouraged including women. Head scarves are not required, but like cathedrals, it is respectful to cover legs and shoulders.