A third women’s refuge for Cologne // Julie Vormweg

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Julie Vormweg
Course of Study:
Master of Science
Wolfgang Zeh Dipl.-Ing.
Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Anne-Julchen Bernhardt
Univ.-Prof. Dr. phil. Alexander Markschies
Chair for Building Typologies

Women's shelters are mostly anonymous shelters for women and children who must flee their social environment in order to escape both physical and psychological violence from close family members. In addition to living space, the shelters also offer professional advice for residents in order to accompany them on their way to an independent future.

The emergence of women's shelters can be traced back to the second wave of the women's movement in the 1970s. At this time, the first shelter in Chiswick was built on the initiative of Erin Pizzey. In Germany, the first autonomous houses opened in 1976 in Berlin, Bielefeld and Cologne. They are based on their own initiative and with the founding of the association Frauen helfen Frauen e.V.

There are now around 350 anonymous and known women's shelters in Germany. In 2018, the Istanbul Convention disclosed, that the number of shelter sites is well below the benchmark. As a result, the city of Cologne decided in 2019 to build a third women's shelter. This work builds on this decision.

A superordinate space program was developed for the design. This includes the rooms of care and work, the rooms of the community as well as the private space.


The basic idea was to design a women's refuge with a known address, in which 10 women with up to 20 children can seek protection.

The attempt was made to develop threshold spaces between private, communal and supervised space, which enables women and children to quickly integrate into the community, but at the same time also provides enough space for retreat. The copper engraving Birth of the virgin by Albrecht Dü rer, on which various rooms of the community are depicted, served as a reference.

The building is located at the Ohmstraße in Cologne and consists of three interconnected structures. The building, which is oriented towards the street, houses the supervised space on the first two floors. This adjoins the entrance hall and the inner courtyard, which opens up to the women's refuge, but does not penetrate the women's living space.

The residential units are located on the following floors and are accessed via an arcade. The ten residential units consist of a living room with a variable number of beds. In addition, each room has a studiolo, which serves as a private retreat. The top floor takes the form of a pavilion-like structure that houses the supervised children's area.

The area of ​​the building facing the courtyard houses the communal rooms on several floors. These open to the stairwell and invite you to use them.

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