With a mildly risqué tweet that elicited no candid responses, MVRDV has revealed a 15-story mixed-use residential tower planned for Mannheim, Germany’s under-development Franklin Mitte district. The donut-y form bears more than a passing resemblance to the fifteenth letter of the alphabet; dubbed “The “O,” the roughly 296,000-square-foot structure will include 120 residential units, street-level retail and a library, and a fourth-floor public terrace located in the middle of the structure’s central circular void.
There are even more letter-shaped buildings to come at Franklin Mitte, a 100-plus-acre residential enclave located of a swath of land that was once home to Benjamin Franklin Village (BFV), a major United States Army installation that shuttered in 2012. Joining the O further down the line in the otherwise low-slung Franklin Mitte redevelopment zone will be three additional high-rise residential towers: The “M” (also designed by MVRDV and developed, like the O, by RVI) as well as an “H” and an “E” (developed by GBG Mannheim and designed by haascookzemmrich STUDIO2050 and Albert Speer + Partner, respectively). Put those four letter-shaped buildings together and you’ve arrived, well, “HOME.” For the time being, however, the O will stand alone.
(Another recently unveiled but wholly different housing scheme helmed by MVRDV, Traumhaus Funari, is located nearby at another decommissioned U.S. Army installation in Mannheim, the Funari Barracks.)
“By itself, the ‘O’ is an exciting and friendly building at the heart of Franklin Mitte, with terraces and plazas that embrace the liveliness that is coming to this area,” said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas in a press statement. “But it is even more exciting in how it becomes a part of the city. Working with the H, M, and E buildings, it will give Franklin Mitte a strong, unique identity: Welcome!”
Flanked on all sides by spacious plazas, the O is sited next to Green Hill, the central public realm element of MVRDV’s 2017 Franklin Mitte master plan proposal that’s just that—a large verdant mound made from recycled debris from the demolished barracks at BFV that “provides a viewpoint at the heart of the neighborhood.” The same approach was taken by fellow Dutch firm West 8 when it incorporated demolition waste from the razing of old military housing into the Hills at Governors Island in New York City. And while not constructed from old barracks, MVRDV also recently ventured into artificial hill design in London and the results were not enthusiastically embraced received by locals (to put it lightly).
Scaling Green Hill won’t be the only method to survey Franklin Mitte from an elevated height. As mentioned, the O will feature a fourth-floor terrace accessible from a monumental public staircase that begins at the foot of the building. Acting as a community “living room” per MVRDV, the terrace will offer “views over the neighborhood” and will “soon become an ideal event location with viewers able to watch a show taking place on top of the hill.”
With their cheerily-hued glass balustrades, a series of private balconies (“almost every” apartment will have one) protruding from the bright, cobalt blue brick-clad facade of the ringed tower will provide additional views and outdoor space while also serving as a source of natural ventilation.
In addition to the Green Hill and the quartet of “HOME” high-rises with the O first to come, the forthcoming Franklin Mitte will also include long, four-story housing blocks that emulate the now-demolished barracks, a supermarket and pharmacy, medical clinic, a central pedestrian thoroughfare known as the Europa Axis, and a “forested plaza” that “contrasts the urban nature of the plazas around the high-rise, adding an oasis for biodiversity to the neighbourhood” according to the firm.
Construction on the O, which just closed its first apartment sales, is anticipated to wrap up in 2025.