Paul-Lincke-Höfe, Berlin, Germany

Location: Berlin, Germany
Client: Realprojekt Bau– und Boden
Size: 5 courtyards
Status: Completed 2000

The Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales are the inspiration for five courtyard gardens in an abandoned factory being converted into luxury loft apartments. Situated over a parking garage and in the shadow of surrounding buildings, the courtyards are a series of man–made, magical vignettes. By transforming traditional tales into a built environment, a cultural connection is made to German folklore. The design provides a strong and memorable identity for the courtyards, creating a fanciful Ômake–believe’ landscape. Because the six–story buildings surrounding the courtyards block the sun, the fairy tale gardens enliven the space with bright, colorful palettes. Each garden’s unique character is accentuated by playful architectural elements, imaginative plantings, and sculptural grade changes. Vertical elements extend the gardens skyward, filling the void between the buildings.

One of the gardens is based on a tale about a water spirit. In the fairy tale, a brother and sister fall into a well where they are captured by the water nixie. The children escape, but the water nixie chases them. In desperate defense, the boy throws his comb behind him. The comb magically transforms into a mountain sprouting hundreds of teeth. But the water nixie climbs over it and continues the chase. The girl then tosses her hair brush behind her. The brush transforms into a mountain with thousands of spikes, but the water nixie climbs over it as well. Finally, the children throw back a mirror which shatters and becomes a mountain of sharp glass, allowing them to escape. The courtyard garden corresponding to this fairy tale is a dense, miniature forest of weeping birches. The elements are evocative of the magical mountains in the story, and serve as a playground for children. The ‘comb’ mountain is made of oversized brightly–colored wooden studs stacked for climbing. The ‘brush’ mountain is made of steel beams with short lengths of colored nylon rope attached for children to scale up the mountain. The third mountain, the mirrored mountain, is a black rubber mound covered with small automotive mirrors that distort images, giving a fun-house effect. A ‘well’ is simulated with blue marbles lit from below to represent water.

The designs for the courtyards are based on the following, lesser known, fairy tales:

Courtyard 1: How Six Made Their Way in the World
Courtyard 2: The Twelve Brothers
Courtyard 3: The Water Nixie
Courtyard 4: The Juniper Tree
Courtyard 5: The Moon