Kurt-Hackenberg-Platz, Cologne, Germany

Client: Stadt Köln
Period: 2014 – 2018
Surface area: 3 600m2


A new design for Kurt Hackenberg Platz has transformed it into a high-quality urban space. Previously a featureless transition zone between the railway station and the old town, it now has a character of its own. It provides an urban area that acts as connective space and point of entry to some of Cologne’s main insititutions: the Philharmonic, the Museum Ludwig, and the Roman-Germanic Museum. It also benefits from an impressive backdrop: the Cologne Cathedral.

At the centre of the square sits a 500m2 area which derives from Cologne’s tradition of urban gardens, such as the Ebertplatz, De-Noel-Platz, and Rathenauplatz. Here, one can sit beneath the light canopy of Sophora japonica, their shadows projected onto the compacted gravel surface below. The urban  garden within this busy area makes it an ideal location to meet, relax, and people-watch.

The whole area is unified by a new paving surface: German “Grauwacke” stone is used to create a linear yet dynamic pattern of changing colour tones and paver lengths. This Grauwacke  stone is used to form the two 22m-long modular benches which run along the sides of the planted area, providing views to the inside of the square and to the street. These massive stones blocks of differing heights have a sculptural quality thanks to the high-quality of the stone cutting. The stone modules are arranged to create a new horizon line: an ever-shifting reference point which moves with the viewer’s position on the square. 

Another point of interest on the square is the custom-designed drinking fountain. This copper fountain is composed of three parts: the drinking element, the hearing horn, and resonance case underground. The fountain is re-imagined as a musical instrument, with the water being the music player. As water drops onto different zones of the resonance case below, it activates small drums, the sound of which can be heard through the hearing horn above. The fountain brings together the act of drinking/tasting and hearing, which establishes a sensorial relation between the square and Cologne’s cathedral bells