London and Hamburg-based architecture practice Finkernagel Ross has put the final touches to a large-scale project in rural North Germany – the Stahlwerk Augustfehn steel factory. The final stage of the decade-long renovation to the 19th-century complex was the extension to the campus’ office and meeting spaces, which now completed, closes this seminal project for the young practice. 

Back in 2006, the architects, headed by Catherine and Felix Finkernagel, were tasked with modernising the existing industrial complex, while boosting the company’s daily operations with much needed extra space. They proceeded by adding a main production plant and forge on site (which opened in 2009). The creation of a new administration wing followed, including space for a spectacular, restored, listed 19th-century steam engine, in 2012. 

While aiming to bring the steelworks’ facilities into the 21st-century, the architects also sought to draw from the site’s industrial heritage ‘by restoring and then displaying industrial artefacts in the new buildings’.

The final phase of the long-term project boasts a striking roof conversion and extension, which plays with the building’s original pitched roof, while transforming it into a signature feature for the whole complex. A restored former factory clock has been incorporated within the new glazed façade. At the same time, transparent, glass-enclosed parts ensure the new workspace interiors are flooded with natural light.

The refreshed building’s sweeping, modern shape offsets the existing structures’ more austere geometry of sharp, rectangular volumes; softening the whole in a balanced juxtaposition of contemporary architecture and Germany’s industrial past.