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Berlin, Germany




3,9 ha


Invited Competition pitch Participation procedure and competitive dialogue




Land Berlin, Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Wohnen


Patrick Verhoeven, Martin Arfalk, Jan Adolph, Francesca Savio, Yuan Lin, Jan Wańczyk, Lara Abi Saber


Bläser Jansen Partner, Form Follows You

Mandaworks created a proposal for a future neighbourhood next to the Berlin Central Station combining the 5-minute City and a performative landscape with the help of an open-sourced digital twin. This formula not only works in Berlin but can also be applied to almost all city centers in Germany!


Located in the center of Berlin neighbouring the Berlin Central Station is the the ULAP Quartier — a district with high ambitions to formulate the structure and design of the city of the future. The mixed neighbourhoods, the direct connection to the “Deutsche Bundesbahn” and the ensuing mix of different users call for an urban development that combines urban density, climate adaptation, social participation and forward-thinking mobility.

The cities and neighbourhoods of the future require newer methods and processes for both the designers and the endusers. During the competition phases, our team together with partners from Bläser Jansen Partner and Form Follows You, employed a participation procedure for the competitive dialogue in the form of a digital twin - open source available not only to the design team and clients, but also all interested parties, stakeholders and the public, encouraging direct involvement of Berlin inhabitants. Different development phases can be dynamically switched on and off, while sunshine and shading can be simulated over all days and times of the year.

A plethora of varying functions (living, working, leisure, recreation, traffic) enter into a symbiotic co-existence generating a synergy effect for all users and leads to a neighbourly togetherness. The vision for the new city block focuses on openness, the possibility of appropriation, flexibility and connectivity, all the elements which already exist in the liveliness of Berlin's neighbourhoods.

This is how today's ULAP quarter becomes uLAB 21 - a laboratory for the quarter of the 21st century!

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Three characters - one family

The three different characters, each with three different focal points of use - living, mixed, work -  give each sub-area a strong identity. The urban structure is dense, mixed and inclusive: the expansion of the boundaries creates flexibility for the area, and the introduction of high-rises strengthen the edges framing the tranquil and cosy inside. Urania Hall, an existing building block of architectural and cultural importance, is gently weaved into the urban fabric and integrated into the network of new neighbourhood's urban blocks. 

uLAB 21 spaces between the buildings are diverse, ecological and community driven. Shared areas are multifunctional and accessible. Existing trees are preserved, and the historical park becomes an inspiration for roof gardens. ULAP Park can be connected via green links on the ground or railway tracks - waking up hidden spaces under the railway viaduct.

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Diversity of typologies

Life between buildings

Developing the inside

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Introducing high-rises

Main flows

Connecting hidden spaces

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uLAB 21 masterplan

Laboratory quarter for the XXI century.

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Mix of apartments


Three characters - one family

The urban building blocks included in the proposal are based on the three properties, each of which has different owners and thus different developmental interests and speeds. Planning deliberately dispenses with the out-dated method of using large forms and instead proposes small-scale, modular building structures that enable all building blocks to be developed independently.

Efficiency and flexibility

Building blocks of Quarter Ost show a high level of space efficiency and a wide range of possible uses. The upper floors, 1-3 in particular, are designed as large base zones that allow for new working environments, common areas and meeting rooms. In Quartier West, the housing mix is ​​optimised for a municipal housing association. Around 80% of planned apartments are social housing. Due to the orientation of the building, it is possible that at least 60% of the apartments can be realised without the necessity for active noise protection measures.

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Intense mix uses

According to the principles of the 5-minute city, a high mix of uses is planned for the city block, to be expressed both horizontally and vertically. The ground floor zones are designated as lively spaces with restaurants, retail shops and workshops that activate and enliven the public spaces and squares. The mix of uses also reacts to the surrounding noise emissions from traffic (railway tracks and Invalidenstraße) and therefore arranges sensitive uses, such as the daycare center and the school, as well as the associated outdoor areas in the neighbourhood. In this way, shielding for particularly susceptible groups of people can be guaranteed. Less sensitive uses such as sports halls are deliberately aligned in the school building to the side facing the noise. In addition, the roof surfaces of the buildings are used intensively in order to minimise the degree of sealing and to fulfil the primary principles of ​​a Sponge City.

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A day in the neighbourhood

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Ecological uLAB 21 - Sponge City

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Digital Twin 

A digital model of the plans is available under the following QR code. There, the different development phases can be dynamically switched on and the sunshine and shading can be simulated over all days and times of the year. The building masses of the different stages of development can also be simulated here.

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