Since 2009, the SOS-Kinderdorf Düsseldorf has been permanently based in the Garath district. In order to cope with its growing popularity, the small district meeting place with child daycare facilities and an event room was repeatedly added to down through the years, with further uses and premises over the years – with the result that the site became more and more scattered and lost any coherence. For this reason, a competition was launched in 2016 to bundle all functions and include more - in one central location in Düsseldorf-Garath.
The new build SOS-Kinderdorf is destined to be a new urban center for the residents of the surrounding area. The SOS-Kinderdorf is not only a home for SOS families but is open to the entire neighborhood: A public nursery, the local café in the multigenerational house with cultural and educational offerings, and the education center are open to everyone in Düsseldorf, as is the large play area. The square with the oak tree and the surrounding bench is public space, inviting people to linger and communicate, and there is a pathway connecting the busy pedestrian zone and the new center with children's playground.
The Kinderdorf, with its striking and sustainable wooden facade, stands out positively in this somewhat socially disadvantaged neighborhood – a highlight in terms of its architecture as well as the social and urban setting in the middle of this social hotspot.
The construction project consists of five two-story building sections in total.
Three of the new buildings lie to the southeast of Matthias-Erzberger-Strasse, arranged around a central square with an old mature oak tree, creating a homely, village-like atmosphere. The standalone buildings are connected to one another via bridges on the upper level and house the education center, children's daycare, and a multigenerational house.
Two further buildings stand to the northwest on a separate piece of land and provide space for residential groups and Kinderdorf families. They are arranged around a shared courtyard, so the ground floors have direct access to the landscaped courtyard and the garden. Each upper floor is assigned a roof terrace.
All the central functions, such as the café, the children's daycare, and the project rooms face south and therefore enjoy visual contact with the playground and Garather Schlossallee. The children's groups in the nursery extend over two floors, while the café is already visible from the Allee and from the central square and connects to the foyer. The project rooms are located on the second floor and are designed in such a way that they can be combined at any time to form a large hall. The education center is clearly visible both from the square and from the street. All offices and meeting rooms face east and west around a central access and supply core.
A strong focus was placed on participation – in the open relationship between inside and out. The SOS-Kinderdorf does have some very sensitive areas that require protection, namely the residential groups for the children. At the same time, though, the ensemble is designed to be open to the neighborhood as a whole, and this has been achieved very successfully thanks to the arrangement on the site with the tree at the center. All common areas are arranged around this natural center, while the private areas are well protected on the other side of the street.
The facade of the new Kinderdorf center consists of natural, vertical wooden slats and wraps around the structure like a cloak, forming a connecting element. With its rounded corners, it guides visitors to the square and invites them to enter the buildings. The frames of the largely floor-to-ceiling windows are finished in anthracite and concealed by the projected lamella facade.
The public areas impress with a high degree of transparency and large, floor-to-ceiling windows. Here there are no barriers, either physical or visual. On the ground floor, all three different functions (nursery, education center, multigenerational house with café) have a direct inside-outside relationship. The areas are connected not only by bridges on the upper floors, but above all by the numerous visual relationships between all the structures and functional areas.
The nursery is dominated by the large, green outdoor staircase. There are further large openings between the ground and upper floor in the multigenerational house, which permit visual contact across various levels and strengthen the sense of community among the different areas. In the planning, much emphasis was placed on common areas and open spaces, while office spaces were kept relatively small. The focus here is clearly on building for the community.