Home » Busi­ness Insights » Schön­burg gives Bern Brei­ten­rain a new lea­se of life

14 March 2018

Schön­burg gives Bern Brei­ten­rain a new lea­se of life

«Schön­burg», once the head­quar­ters of Swiss Post, is in the heart of the Bern resi­den­ti­al district of Brei­ten­rain. By rede­si­gning and upgra­ding the site, Swiss Prime Site is crea­ting more than just an attrac­tive cent­re – the who­le neigh­bour­hood will see an increa­se in qua­li­ty of life.

In a prime loca­ti­on in Bern’s Brei­ten­rain quar­ter, Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en is trans­forming the for­mer postal head­quar­ters into a new cent­re that will impro­ve the qua­li­ty of life in the neigh­bour­hood.

Over the next two years, the rooms in the «Schön­burg» will be con­ver­ted into uni­que apart­ments, shops, a fit­ness cent­re and a bud­get design hotel. Brit­ta Rich­li, who has respon­si­bi­li­ty on the Swiss Prime Site side for the major pro­ject, took us on a tour of the con­struc­tion site.

The Aare mean­ders leisu­rely past the Brei­ten­rain quar­ter, one of the federal capital’s most popu­lar resi­den­ti­al are­as. We’re just a stone’s throw away from the Bear Pit and there’s even a glo­rious unre­stric­ted view of the Alps – at least, usual­ly the­re would be. Today a bliz­zard is swir­ling over Bern, trans­forming the vast con­struc­tion site into a sur­re­al white waste­land. It’s bit­ter­ly cold.

In just two years of con­struc­tion time, Swiss Prime Site will trans­form the for­mer head­quar­ters of the Swiss Post into a «Space to Unfold», which will open up 31500 squa­re metres of usable space to the ent­i­re quar­ter. The qua­li­ty of life in the resi­den­ti­al area, alrea­dy high, will increa­se fur­ther: for examp­le, the Schön­burg will beco­me home to a branch of the co-op and a modern fit­ness cent­re – two amen­ities that at the moment the local resi­dents have to tra­vel for, eit­her into the city cent­re or to ano­t­her sub­urb.

Brit­ta Rich­li, Asset Mana­ger Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en.

Con­ge­ni­al hotel con­cept
Brit­ta Rich­li leads us enthu­si­asti­cal­ly around «her con­struc­tion site». She tells us about the 132 apart­ments, 10 town houses and 188 hotel beds that will appe­ar here bet­ween now and autumn 2019. Her enthu­si­asm is infec­tious, and despi­te the icy cold, we can almost feel the cosy ambi­ence of the generous hotel lob­by. The hotel will be a bud­get design hotel: spe­ci­fi­cal­ly, a Pri­zeo­tel. This con­ge­ni­al con­cept is alrea­dy ope­ra­ting suc­cess­ful­ly in Ger­ma­ny and now the hotel group is now advan­cing into Switz­er­land, begin­ning with the Bern Schön­burg. As with all the group’s pro­jects, inter­na­tio­nal­ly-reco­gnis­ed desi­gner Karim Rashid was con­trac­ted, com­ing all the way from New York to Bern espe­ci­al­ly to get an in-situ impres­si­on of the loca­ti­on. His designs are colour­ful, inten­se, bold – and will surely be a novel­ty for the city. He swears by the fun­da­men­tal con­cept of «Desi­gno­cra­cy»: generous design, afford­a­ble by anyo­ne. Alt­hough the ope­ning is still some way off, the inno­va­ti­ve con­cept is alrea­dy awa­ke­n­ing con­si­dera­ble inte­rest. The­re is a need for good, afford­a­ble hotel beds in Bern, and it’s exact­ly this need that the Pri­zeo­tel tar­gets. Its afford­a­ble offers and its own spe­cial tone will rai­se Bern’s attrac­tiveness for tou­rists and busi­nes­speop­le ali­ke.

Brit­ti Rich­li leads us around «her con­struc­tion site».

Com­plex reno­va­ti­on rather than new con­struc­tion
The tour con­ti­nues to the third floor, whe­re Edi Ber­ger, respon­si­ble Pro­ject Mana­ger at Losin­ger Maraz­zi, points out a coup­le of inte­re­sting fea­tures: «The buil­ding was desi­gned in 1970 for offices. Con­se­quent­ly, the sup­ports have been con­struc­ted in a 135-cen­ti­met­re grid. Sin­ce that wouldn’t plea­se any­bo­dy in a resi­den­ti­al set­ting, we’re rebuil­ding the ent­i­re thing into a four-met­re grid. It’s one of the big­gest reno­va­ti­on pro­jects that has been ent­ru­sted to us so far… and just as com­plex as that makes it sound.» But – why would anyo­ne car­ry out this sort of pro­ject as a reno­va­ti­on, rather than just demo­li­shing ever­ything and star­ting from scratch? «The­re are three rea­sons», exp­lains Ber­ger. «First­ly, we have a fan­ta­stic under­ly­ing basis here, and we don’t want to just destroy it. Second­ly, the uti­li­sa­ti­on is excel­lent. Even just buil­ding the two-storey under­ground gara­ge like that wouldn’t be pos­si­ble now. And third­ly, the buil­ding, as the for­mer Swiss Post head­quar­ters, is worthy of pro­tec­tion». A stro­ke of incredi­ble luck: Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en, by con­trac­ting the con­sor­ti­um Theo Hotz Part­ner and Maraz­zi + Paul Archi­tects for the new design, was able to invol­ve the very same archi­tec­tu­ral stu­dio who par­ti­ci­pa­ted in the crea­ti­on of the post office buil­ding almost five deca­des ear­lier.

Plan­ning with Buil­ding Infor­ma­ti­on Model­ling
Edi Ber­ger goes on: «The pro­ject is not just exci­ting becau­se of its size: it is also one of the first recon­struc­tion sche­mes to be con­sistent­ly imple­men­ted as a BIM pro­ject.» BIM stands for «Buil­ding Infor­ma­ti­on Model­ling» and is a method whe­re the ent­i­re buil­ding is first erec­ted as a high­ly-com­plex 3D model. The model is then used to deri­ve all the plans – for the masons, for the elec­tri­ci­ans, for the plum­bers. This prac­tice has been com­mon for new builds for qui­te some time, but for reno­va­ti­on pro­jects it rep­res­ents new ter­ri­to­ry. «For a reno­va­ti­on pro­ject of this sca­le, it’s part of the day’s work that we’ll con­ti­nu­al­ly be run­ning into sur­pri­ses and pro­blems during the con­struc­tion sta­ge. With BIM, admit­ted­ly the design pha­se is lon­ger, but we’re expe­ri­en­cing far fewer com­pli­ca­ti­ons during rea­li­sa­ti­on. Tra­di­tio­nal working methods are out­da­ted even in the con­struc­tion sec­tor! Alrea­dy lots of the sup­pliers and work­men bring tablets to the con­struc­tion site.»

Inve­sting in true added value
The Schön­burg pro­ject is cer­tain­ly incor­po­ra­ting the latest tech­no­lo­gy and inno­va­tions. But despi­te the touch­screens, the con­struc­tion site can be a noi­sy hive of activi­ty at times. The faca­de is being com­ple­te­ly repla­ced. In one wing, an ent­i­re stair­ca­se is being cut out of the con­cre­te and rebuilt from scratch. A signi­fi­cant effort, admit­ted­ly, but the ent­i­re buil­ding is to be made as acces­si­ble as pos­si­ble. The generous apart­ments and town houses will offer a high qua­li­ty of life for all kinds of life­styles – sin­gles, fami­lies, cou­ples, …

Brit­ti Rich­li is hap­py: «The local resi­dents will soon have a new, attrac­tive cent­re, plus lots of green space and a generous play area – a fan­ta­stic con­tri­bu­ti­on to the deve­lop­ment of the neigh­bour­hood.» As if it’s a sign, as the tour comes to an end, the sun breaks through the almost imp­ene­tra­ble white.