Building BECYCLE: The Architect's Story

Three years ago, an old bank was converted into the stunning BECYCLE studio, made possible by a dream team of architects - götz+bilchev, Lien Tran and DRAA. We recently sat down with architect Matthias Götz to discover the true story and secrets behind building BECYCLE…

© Waldemar Salesski

© Waldemar Salesski

1. What were your first impressions of the original space? How was the layout originally?

Imagine the most boring “Sparkasse” bank that comes to mind which hasn’t seen a refresh for at least 20 years. Yes, grey was a dominating colour back then, you remember it correctly.

Also, nobody had an open layout in mind, when this building was designed and constructed more than 100 years ago. The existing layout was odd for our purpose to say the least. Especially this area just in front of the ride studio was something in between a corridor and a stretched service area. All rooms were needly divided by grey post-and-beam constructions.

© götz+bilchev

© götz+bilchev

At the same time there was a sense that there must be a beautiful historical structure laying beneath all the plasterboard and fake ceiling. I was especially intrigued by the huge vault in the cellar, which is now part of the ladies changing room.

2. What was your vision for BECYCLE? 

We were commissioned to design a boutique fitness studio with a café or restaurant attached. The centrepiece always was the ride studio, where the clients had a very clear vision what kind of vibe was needed to make it a leading cycling studio in Germany.

In general the whole team had great freedom to incorporate unique design features to make this a new kind of “boutique fitness studio”.

Our vision was to create a space that is not just appealing while working out, but also makes it easy to connect and feel at home during the rest of the stay. Where nowadays most fitness studios naturally transmit a feeling of anonymity, we wanted to create the exact opposite for BECYCLE. Therefor, we put great effort into the transition spaces from entering BECYCLE to actually starting your workout.

© götz+bilchev

© götz+bilchev

3. How did you transform the space to create BECYCLE as it is now?

First of all everything that was not structurally integrated had to come of the walls, ceiling and floor. We wanted to have a clean start.

The next step was to decide which historical building parts we wanted to feature in the new design. You will find that we opted for big parts of the brick wall, the vaulted ceiling in the yoga studio and the bank vault in the cellar.

Apart from the studios and the changing rooms we wanted to keep the layout open. To deal with the odd open layout that resulted, we designed a brass “parasite” that helped us to reshape and align the entire resulting space.

© Waldemar Salesski

© Waldemar Salesski

Brass is also the visual binding material between the other two main components in our design, wood and natural stone. A balanced play of soft and hard material.

4. Did you come across any challenges/surprises along the way?

Designing within an historical structure always comes with a whole bag of surprises and challenges. Adding the fact that this was the first BECYCLE Studio didn’t lower the complexity of the project.

We had wet walls in the cellar, which forced us to place the lockers in the middle of the changing rooms. The floor in the ground floor wouldn’t support the weight of our room-in-room sound proof ride studio, so we had to place pillars in the cellar and enforce the ceiling. The emergency exit in the cellar simply didn’t exist, so we had to refurbish parts of the neighbouring cellar.

I could go on for a while, but the great news is that we didn’t have to compromise on concept or design. The clients were very supportive ensuring the design team had enough freedom to come up with equal or even better alternatives.

In fact, I really think that the lockers in the middle of the changing rooms have a positive effect on the spacing, because they now provide a higher level of privacy.

© Waldemar Salesski

© Waldemar Salesski

5. What is your favourite part of the space?

Since our vision was to build a strong sense of community into the space, I think my favourite part is just right out of the ride studio where you refill the water and have the quick lockers.

I love when you stand in between all those sweaty, but happy faces that just experienced an amazing ride together. It’s a feeling of togetherness where you also have the chance to chat with your coach and mates, refresh and make plans what’s up next.

Our vision for the next BECYCLE studios is to put even more emphasis on these junction points. In the end it’s what happens between the BECYCLE athletes that makes our architecture relevant and brings it to life.

I hope people visiting BECYCLE can feel that our team enjoyed designing the spaces and furniture and that this adds to their experience in a positive way.

6. Have you been to any of the classes? If yes, what did you think?

Yes of course, every time I’m in Berlin I go. In the beginning I mainly went to the rides, but then actually checked out all the other offers as well.

Most of the time I do workouts by myself at home, but going to BECYCLE adds another emotional layer to the experience. During the rides I’m feeling kind of high and really can push myself to the limits. Also I feel the workouts were designed in a way that everybody gets exactly the right intensity for the respective athletic level.

One of my favourite classes I took lately was the Barre class with Nikolai. He is easily one of the most motivating coaches you can ever meet. It’s a workout you would never do on your own. The burn in your glutes the next day is unavoidably though.

Interview by
Stephanie Cusack - marketing/events manager and yoga teacher at BECYCLE.