Civilian creates welcoming lounge spaces for a brace of Bard College Berlin dorms

Mellow Yellow

There’s no missing that yellow. A lemonish hue pervades the lounge spaces of two new dormitories at Bard College Berlin’s campus, applied to back walls and a coffee bar. Framed by green trim, the tint brightens up the rooms (which double as co-working areas), though it is far from the only chromatic flourish. Coral red seating—custom-designed by the building architects, the New York–based firm Civilian, and recalling the planar geometries of Gerrit Rietveld—adds a slightly earthy contrast. Turquoise curtains and plush light-blue lounge chairs with orange steel frames, also by Civilian, round out the color palette.

The architects designed the pair of buildings as well as all the furnishings within them. (Robert Rieger)

The ground-level coffee bar is framed in yellow and green trim. (Robert Rieger)

The architects have cited Berlin’s modernist tradition, particularly its varied manifestations in the leafy Pankow neighborhood, as inspiration. The well-handled brick exteriors of the five-story buildings, one clay red and the other creamy white, have a certain Expressionist character. Inside, every one of the 39 apartment units is outfitted with plywood flatpack furniture that evokes Donald Judd’s minimalist furnishings.

But it’s the ground-floor spaces that call the most attention to themselves. Linked by a grassy courtyard, the halls provide a tranquil yet stimulating environment for busy students. The coloration betrays the influence of Bruno Taut, another Berlin architect with a fine eye for mixing and matching. In particular, the lemon-and-lime combination flirts with a later time—chiefly, the Pantonesque reveries of the late 1960s and early ’70s. It’s a bit of the Amalfi coast by way of Fanta.

The interiors of two new dormitories at Bard College Berlin demonstrate how much can be done with so little. (Robert Rieger)