In the historic center of Oberhausen, Berlin-based architectural firm Kuehn Malvezzi has created a job center topped with a greenhouse in an unprecedented example of “building-integrated agriculture” in Germany. Named Altmarktgarten Oberhausen, the mixed-use facility symbolizes old and new: the brick-and-steel material palette references the area’s historic architecture, while the greenhouse serves as a place for innovative urban farming research. For a reduced environmental footprint, the architects installed systems for recycling rainwater, gray water and waste heat from the building operations.

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brick building topped with greenhouse

Created in collaboration with landscape architects atelier le balto and awarded the winner in a 2016 architecture competition, the mixed-use facility was constructed on the site of an old market hall at Oberhausen’s Altmarkt. The first five stories of the building function as a job center, while the top floor and rooftop greenhouse are used by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT). An interior courtyard with a vertical garden helps visually connect the sawtooth-roofed greenhouse with the brick building below. The vertical garden — which comprises hardy climbing plants, like the crimson glory vine and common hop, on a galvanized steel structure — are complemented with a bed of small shrubs and ground cover plantings.

Related: A “floating” greenhouse is inserted behind a renovated Belgian home

rows of plants growing inside a greenhouse

“The building, designed by Kuehn Malvezzi, blends confidently but calmly into the historical city,” the architects said. “The specificity of this important urban location results from the tension between the physicality of the brick building and the filigree lightness of the rooftop greenhouse planned in cooperation with Haas Architekten. From the regularity of its structure, the greenhouse on each of the three sides of the street forms its own conclusion, which responds sensitively to each context.”

vertical gardens in a greenhouse

To access the greenhouse, visitors are led from a lime tree-lined market square, past the courtyard with the vertical garden and up a steel staircase to the roof. Operated by the municipality, the publicly accessible greenhouse overlooks views of Oberhausen’s historic center and the city beyond.

+ Kuehn Malvezzi

Photography by Hiepler Brunier via Kuehn Malvezzi

brick building below a greenhouse