Open floor plans, floor-to-ceiling windows: At the opening in the 1960s, the Karstadt headquarters in Essen-Bredeney was way ahead of its time. Koschany + Zimmer architects KZA are now modernizing parts of the company campus – and participants of a VHS event were able to take a look at the work that has been done so far.

Around 30 interested parties came to the construction site tour, which KZA director Stefan Blieffert and site manager Fred Brandstetter jointly managed. Some Karstadt employees from neighboring areas also took the opportunity to take a glance at their new workplace. Soon they will move into the modern open-plan offices in building sections A and B – and entering the construction site is normally prohibited for safety reasons.

Buildings can withstand today’s demands

Stefan Blieffert provided an overview of the structure of the company campus with more than 100,000 square meters of floor space. Building sections A to C were put into operation in 1969. Six years later, section D was added. Until today, the design of architect Walter Brune is so modern that many elements can withstand the requirements of modern buildings. “For example, we were able to integrate all new elements and partitions into the existing axle grid,” explained Blieffert.

Special requirements due to preservation order

Nevertheless, the planning of the renovation work was different than with other projects – mainly because the sections A to C are listed buildings. “It was about keeping the original condition as far as possible,” explained KZA site manager Fred Brandstetter, who guided the guests. Many of the original elements have been cleaned or reworked to return to their original location – including the light boxes, which now feature modern LED technology.

Event series “Giants at eye level”

The event was organized as part of the series “Giants at Eye Level”, which will focus on ten major buildings from the 1960s and 1970s in North Rhine-Westphalia until the end of November. The professional group for Urban Heritage Management has launched the series in cooperation with the local adult education centers. “It’s about showing the current status, but also discussing points of criticism and opportunities,” said Dr. Gudrun Escher, who is in charge of the events for the specialist group.