Discover Germany, Issue 33, December 2015

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Walking the line: how raumwandler architects bridge the divide between the past and the present Acquiring a castle in the former GDR region of Germany is not an unusual move for investors nowadays. The next step, however, is not that easy. TEXT: CORNELIA BRELOWSKI | PHOTOS: BERND HIEPE / GUILLAUME HOBI

How to approach a historical or even listed building is a delicate task that experts are asked for. One architect who has specialised on the matter of restoring historical structures and opening them up for new purposes is Uwe Licht, founder of the architects' office ‘raumwandler’ in Berlin. ‘raumwandler’ translates both as ‘space transformers’and‘space walkers’.You could say they are walking on a path between the old and the new, carefully changing the existing structure with regards to both the past and the present. The team of seven consists of architects, engineers and an art historian who specialise in restoring and

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converting historic and listed buildings. While tackling a myriad of projects in the Berlin area, raumwandler are increasingly getting involved with nationwide projects as well, their latest being the conversion of the former Heppenheim clinics in the Odenwald area, a complex dating back to 1866. Set within alluring green surroundings, the Heppenheim clinics include a horseshoe-shaped array of three large main buildings as well as dormitories and former isolation houses. The complex is to be conversed into 180 housing units. Here, the challenging task includes dealing with restricting elements such as roof trusses constructed of height-reducing wooden struts

– not an easy space to convert into inhabitable snug attic flats. From the perspective of valuing buildings as historical assets, the raumwandler team focus on an intensive analysis of the existing structure, meanwhile exercising an always fresh and critical view on contemporary architecture itself. Sustainable construction and conversion are one of the main goals of their work as well as the preservation of the historical structure. Architect Uwe Licht has studied both architecture and scenography and is also a trained carpenter. Having specialised in building-protection and making use of long years of practical experience al-