Frizz23 is Germany’s first new building for a cultural-commercial Baugruppe.

This exemplary project grew out of civic engagement, and also helped develop new local platforms for further engagement. It has become a “city within the city”, a self-made, small-scale mix of many different components.

Spaces are shared, public, semi-public, and private. The occupants are creative and not for profit organisations, ranging in size from 1–35 people seeking long term refuge from Berlin’s spiraling gentrification. A few of them also live there, in units designed around their individual live / work configurations.

The Baugruppe model for cooperative development had been extensively tested in Berlin for creating housing, and we saw great potential in using this model as a method to generate buildings to serve other aspects of city life.

We offered an empty concrete shelf to participants, from which they could choose their ideal space. By becoming owners of their workspaces they are protected from the substantial rent increases that are making creative work in the city steadily more difficult.

First the dialogue, then the design

As Frizz23 began, we actively avoided forms and images. Our motto was first the dialogue, then the design. We asked questions and listened. As these conversations progressed, our work became more concrete. We structured the dialogue to create a community, and designed the building with and for this community.

The process we charted is an inversion of the usual method that begins with an image created by an architect as an answer to a brief. By beginning with questions rather than answers, we believe that architects can not only contribute to cities on layers beyond the built fabric, but that they can also create architecture that is bolder, more resilient, and more meaningful to the people that use it.

City within the city

Live-work ateliers for artists, studios for writers, set builders, musicians, comic artists, co-working, offices for architects, online service providers, communication agencies, upcycling and bicycles workshops, seminar rooms for occupational education, minilofts for guest lodging, a café, an event space, a gallery and project space.

Community and sustainability

The more people and perspectives that are integrated into a building’s planning, the more sustainable the built outcome will be.

The projects sustainability goals were defined in dialogue with the participants. The primary aim was to achieve sustainability by intelligent use of conventional solutions, rather than experimenting with expensive and fragile technologies.

The building is designed to last as long as possible and in so doing minimize grey energy consumption. Because of its simple structural grid, Frizz23 can easily be re-purposed should the community’s spatial needs change.

Installing external sun shades and green roofs helps to avoid overheating, and no air conditioning was needed. Rain water is managed using a retainment system under the footpath in front of the building.

The materials were selected for their longevity, and detailed to minimize maintenance. The wooden facade is naturally protected from the elements by the charring process, without any additional chemical coating or impregnation. The aluminum is not only long-lasting, but easily recyclable should it ever need to be demounted.

Many of the participants chose to join Frizz23 because its central location would shorten commutes for themselves and their staff. Some participants also live in the building, which helps keep emissions associated with daily travel to a minimum.

Actor process diagram

This diagram describes the complex web of interactions that made Frizz23 possible. These include political activism, legal and financial negotiation, process design and traditional architectural design.


Five levels of participation

Frizz23 is founded upon a complex system of participatory processes on five different levels. The processes did not run sequentially but in parallel, cross-pollinating each other.

The later three processes were initiated by the architects with the goal of exploring new ways to make large scale urban development accessible to broad groups of the population.

Historically, Berlin has a strong history of DIY urbanism. Although the processes behind Frizz23 drew on the local community of like-minded professionals, these methods can be applied equally well in other cities and countries.

Frizz23 is therefore a case study in how citizens can act together to create city.

Programing the Building

Deadline Architects based Frizz23’s program on the KuKQ Concept, the result of a participatory process organised by local citizens. Among other things, the KuKQ plan called for an education centre, studios for artists and creative industries, a guest house, exhibition spaces and co-working. Deadline’s plan for Frizz23 brought all these uses together in an intensive small scale mixture.

To realise this, the architects founded a Baugruppe cooperative. Over the course of two years they gathered a group of like-minded entrepreneurs to join a civil law partnership and share the risk of building the building.

Adaptable structure

“First the dialogue, then the design” was the project’s guiding principle. The architects involved the group in all decisions from beginning to end.

Individually, the participants could shape many aspects of their units, including:

  • Unit size and location in building
  • Units spanning one, two, or three floors
  • Floor plan based on each participant’s needs
  • Balcony size and location
  • Window size, location, and quantity
  • Roof light size, location, and quantity
  • Window sill material
  • Floor material
  • Sanitary fixtures
  • Tiles


32% Education, 34% Art and Creative Industires, 15% Shops, 15% Short-stay apartments und 4% Gastronomy

  • 14 Minilofts short-stay apartments 23–54 m2
  • 3 Apartments 28–50 m2
  • 4 Live/Work units 70–100 m2
  • 46 Workspaces: 25–280 m2

GFA: 9324 m2


Frizz23 has received much public attention, including winning the Deutsche Städtebau Preis, Berlin Award, and as finalists in the E.U. Mies van der Rohe Award. We hope that this will help inspire other cities and architects to refine the participation methods and development models we have tested here.

Lorien Beijaert, Wiesje Bijl, Paolo Birrer, Peer Frantzen, Beatrice Kiaunyte, Tim Maaßen, Veljko Markovic, Sarah Milberger, Sasa Müller, Guido Schweiss, Ketsarin Zimmer