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"line of reflection"

Urban design and housing // Guben-Gubin, DE-PL // Competition entry Europan V // 1998

Guben and Gubin are two towns on either side of the River Oder, at this point the border between Germany and Poland. The two sites lie on either side of the river in existing social housing districts, one in each country. Guben and Gubin have developed in a separate yet interdependent relationship to each other, separated by the river. For each town, the other represents a mirror mage, a parallel environment, reversed and distorted, yet recognisable. The symmetries and differences on both sides of the river are interpreted in this design as positive qualities helping define the identity of the towns and their mutual interdependence, with the river as a mirror establishing a Plane of Reflection as a structural metaphor. The new houses for both Guben and Gubin are based on the same design, the „Reversible House“ is a typology containing within itself symmetries and reflections, a microcosm of the overall urban strategy.

The Guben site is interpreted as an extension of the existing park landscape. The new houses define private open space for their owners, and also create a clear hierarchy of public spaces, encouraging the continued use of the site as a short cut. The Line of Reflection takes the form of a diagonal street through the site of the new houses.
In Gubin, the Line of Reflection is a broad, linear public space, connecting the hill at the back of the site with the edge of the plateau and the town. It is a new focus for the community linking the existing blocks with the single-family houses to the North. A framework for different activities: sport, a market, playgrounds. Additions to the existing integrate new public areas with the estate, new shopping facilities in plinth zones in front of the existing housing blocks, a library, and a cinema.

The Reversible House is based on five principles, a new five points for a detached house typology:
1. Offset Floor Volumes
2. Double Entrance
3. Flexible Urban Figure
4. Adaptable Plan
5. Double Level-Double Function
The Reversible House responds to the movement and proximity that change and develop in the life of the house owner over time.

Organiser: Europan