Touch the Sky

A new concept in urban lofts for the automobile enthusiast.

It’s so James Bond: a darkening Berlin skyline, the Spree River sparkling below, a roof-garden path through wind-bent tulips to your car parked in the sky, right on your terrace.

CarLoft aims its new design squarely at male, premium car owners—always up for fresh perks and loath to tear their eyes away from their trophy automobiles. But it addresses key issues for women as well. “If you’re a mother of three, you want comfort and security,” notes CarLoft’s founder, Johannes Kauka. “You’d rather not park in a dark, empty garage and then have to schlep your grocery bags upstairs.” At the same time, if you own a Maserati, there’s more than the kids to worry about—the car itself warrants protection. Just don’t ask the head of the household which stinging fear keeps them up at nights; as the German saying goes, “My car is my favorite child”.

CarLoft works like this: you drive the car into a modified industrial elevator, the CarLift. (Nearly all German luxury vehicles fit; only the massive Mercedes Maybach, priced at half a million euros, is too much car to lift.) A computer-controlled transponder recognizes the car and knows to which floor it should be delivered automatically. Two-point-five minutes later, you’ve reached your floor and can drive straight into the CarLoggia, your terrace-level parking space. Standard floor plans allow some choice in how discreet or blaring your car’s presence is from indoors: tucked by the bedroom or in full view of the living room, behind glass or an opaque wall. To avoid elevator waits, you can pre-program the lift to pick you up at regular times—your morning commute, for example—or for one-off trips.

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However frothily luxe it sounds, Kauka and architect Manfred Dick developed the CarLoft idea to solve a practical problem. The site for the Paul-Lincke-Höfe, a new apartment building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, offers lovely views along the Spree River but the depth of the river rules out underground parking. Integrating a car elevator into all floors of the residential building solves the parking problem, plus hooks the car-owner with a surprisingly thoughtful indoor-outdoor design. Including the garden space and CarLoggias, the apartments range from 2,411 to 5,802 square feet.

The Paul-Lincke-Höfe includes a doorman and a “mobility guarantee” in the cost of each loft, so that owners can take cabs expense-free in the event of elevator malfunctions. Since every loft on every floor includes a garden and a CarLoggia, the team took pains to avoid a walled-in, double-decker effect. “We knew it was important to have room overhead, to give a feeling of generosity and transparency” to the space, Kauka adds. “It can’t feel tiny and narrow.”

Recently Kauka and Dick secured a world-wide patent for CarLoft and, assuming a successful pilot in Berlin, they plan CarLoft buildings in Hamburg, Munich, Vienna, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Warsaw and possibly the States. Four of the eleven units in Paul-Lincke-Höfe have already been sold. Construction will begin when either two smaller units or one large unit is sold and, if all goes well, the estimated date for completion is in early 2007.

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