Gallery: Historic German water tower refurbished into green living spac...


There is a natural connection between sustainable design and historic preservation, one that is often overlooked. Building reuse and adaptation easily lend themselves to the ideals of green building, like lower embodied energy, longevity and cultural significance that promotes engaged users. In Essen, Germany, Architects from the Madako group have transformed an historic water tower into an imaginative space for living and working that showcases a fusion of old and new with lasting environmental considerations.

In its initial form, the Umbau Wasserturm (converted water tower) in Essen-Bredeney stood untouched under Germany’s ‘Denkmalschutz’ and ’Landschaftschutzgebiet’ – historic building protection and culturally significant landscape protection. These two designations prevented demolition and maintained the water tower as part of the heritage landscape. The potential of the structure remained untapped until 2002. Then, with little alteration to the exterior, the water tower was transformed into an eight-story, multi-use building. The ground level space serves as an office and the lofty top level unit offers conference space with views of the surrounding natural landscape.

Three two-story apartments welcome the sun with open, flowing floor plans and high ceilings. Natural daylighting, thermal mass and convective cooling are inherent building technologies that translate to the structure’s new functions.

The embodied energy in existing materials has been diluted through an extension of the structure’s viability. Through reuse and adaptation the cost of demolition, trucking and land filling debris, the manufacturing, transport and installation of new structural materials has been eliminated. The result is a quiet lesson in “stealth green” – reuse brings both ecological and cultural advantages.

Madako Architects
Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz
Photos © copyright by
‘Denkmalschutz’ = monument protection
‘Landschaftschutzgebiet’ = landscape protection area


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  1. wallpapers July 6, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    How does it look in 2009? I think it could do with more lights going up the side of the building.

  2. Property Roadmap October 5, 2007 at 7:55 am

    The outside looks like they’ve done really well, but I’ve got admit, with that dark laminate flooring and metal staircase, it looks either done on a budget or with limited/extreme taste. :)

  3. branko October 3, 2007 at 3:27 pm


  4. Leo October 3, 2007 at 12:39 am

    Nice building. It’s hard to go wrong when you have such a beautiful structure to start with. I agree the interiors are a bit cold (maybe a bit too Germanic)
    I’ve seen really good examples of re-do’s of old silos in Buenos Aires. Great looking buildings with nicely crafted interiors.

  5. PEBCAC » Blog Arc... October 2, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    […] read more | digg story […]

  6. Spam October 2, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Awesome! Too bad it’d be available only to the super-rich.. around here it would be anyway. 😐

  7. Chris October 2, 2007 at 9:23 am

    That looks awesome. I would love to live in a place like that…except for the stairs. One night out on the town and I’d never make it to the bedroom.

  8. Sasyl October 2, 2007 at 6:58 am

    It looks really cool.. and expensive.
    I’d love to to live there!

  9. Nature Wallpaper October 2, 2007 at 4:41 am

    that is an amazing building and piece of architecture!!

  10. Georgios D. Koutras &ra... October 2, 2007 at 4:10 am

    […] Historic German water tower refurbished into green living space […]

  11. drafeus October 2, 2007 at 1:08 am

    Amazing; the container upstairs must be where they hold giant massive sexy parties! yeah!

  12. William October 1, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    what about that huge container on the top. what’s going on up there?

  13. Daniel October 1, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    This is really cool. I wouldn’t mind having an apartment like that. We have an old water tower in my town that’s been unused for many years (possibly even a few decades) that I’d love to turn into some kind of building. But, I don’t think it’d be the most energy efficient. The whole thing is made out of metal. But it’d be fun!

  14. Michael October 1, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    nice digs.

  15. Joyce October 1, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Ingenious. Sustainability and historic preservation do go hand-in-hand. Hopefully, we’ll see even more historic places renovated with green materials and technologies in the future.

  16. speedmaster October 1, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Beautiful and clever, I like it!

  17. Hmmmmm October 1, 2007 at 9:16 am

    What a beautiful structure. A little cold and starck on the inside for my taste, but what a fantastic re-do. I wish I could be so creative.

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