At the heart of Bonn

University Operations During Building Works

The building work needed to renovate and restore our baroque main building located in the heart of Bonn means that it will be unavailable as a university facility for at least ten years from 2024. Affecting not only the many thousands of students and hundreds of staff who will require alternative accommodation, these developments will also have an impact on Bonn city center itself. The University must therefore retain its central location at the heart of Bonn. Seeking to minimize the disruption of student life and staff routine which will inevitably result from this step and maintain our central location, the University management is currently considering plans to locate the temporary accommodation of our lecture halls and communication spaces in as central a location as possible, ideally in the Hofgarten. This step is vital to maintaining the quality of life in Bonn’s city center. Plans to this end must have been agreed by the summer.

Plans for a Fundamental Renovation

The Residenzschloss in Bonn, which has housed the main building of the University of Bonn for more than 200 years, is set to undergo fundamental renovation. Starting in 2024, the program will last at least ten years, and foresees complete evacuation of the building to facilitate a ten-year building program to ensure compliance with modern technical and energy standards. The result will be a state-of-the-art space for excellent research and teaching.

Several alternative facilities have been rented to house the administrative units and parts of the humanities faculties currently hosted by the main building. The majority of the humanities sections will find temporary accommodation in the former facilities of an insurance company in Rabinstraße. The university administration will be housed in the former headquarters of Deutscher Herold, located in in Poppelsorfer Allee.

© Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn
Standort Hauptgebäude Universität Bonn
© Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

The Future Main Building

The University launched a consultative process incorporating all stakeholders to develop a vision for the future facility management of the University main building. The Rectorate views the renovation as an opportunity to modernize the usage by the University of the former Elector’s Palace and establish state-of-the art research and teaching facilities. The new plan will end the current fragmentation of the various institutes over a multiplicity of small usage areas and improve the general working environment. To this end, the floor plan will be adapted to meet the needs of a modern University.

Alternative Accommodation in the Heart of Bonn

The University is currently working on a solution to the impending loss of lecture hall facilities resulting from the unavailability of the main building. The replacement facilities must be easily accessible from the new temporary accommodation of the faculties, ideally in a central location. Our preference is to establish the greatest possible majority of lecture hall capacity in the Hofgarten.

The libraries will receive a new residence in the Viktoriakarree. It is planned that the resulting “Forum of Knowledge” will provide a new, permanent venue for certain functions currently performed in the main building, even after completion of the general renovation, thereby developing into a location at which researchers and teachers can meet both with each other and the wider city community.

Campus Innenstadt
© Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

Serious Impact on University Operations

The renovation of the University main building will represent a caesura in its 200-year history. The entire city of Bonn is subject to many and deep influences from the University which it houses in its center. Serving as the central point of identification for all University members from over 140 nations, the University main building is a constitutive aspect of our very identity as a University of Excellence. It is vital therefore, that the University main building continues to fulfill this role after it has been made fit for the 21st century.

Securing a location during the renovation of the main building - Interview with Rector Michael Hoch

What Students Think About an Alternative Location

A continued University presence in the Hofgarten

The former Elector’s Palace is not just a Bonn landmark, but the beating heart of our University. Our presence in the Hofgarten is not just an important aspect of the Bonn university experience, but exemplifies our contribution to the wider attempt to prevent the development of a vacuum in the center of Bonn and the resulting increase in criminality. All university bodies have spoken clearly in support of a plan that maintains a University presence in the Hofgarten.

High-quality and attractive temporary accommodation

The University of Bonn is seeking to establish high-quality temporary facilities in the Hofgarten area at which to host not only University lectures, but other University and non-University, municipal cultural events. The temporary facilities are to be retained until the lecture halls in the main building are available once again.

The exact location of this new accommodation is still a matter of consultation between the University, the NRW state construction and real estate agency and the City authorities. In addition to the Hofgarten, the consultations are also considering new temporary facilities in less central–and thus less suitable–locations. One possibility involves the dispersal of facilities over a range of locations. Whilst aware of the necessity of reaching a practicable solution, the number one priority of the University remains the concentration of as many units at the Hofgarten as is possible. This decision must have been made by summer 2022, to ensure a smooth transition in 2024.

Advantages for the city

Student life in and around the Hofgartenwiese shapes and enlivens this area for the benefit of all who value it as an inner-city leisure and meeting space. The Hofgarten is also a popular tourist attraction; its continued safe use as a place of public meeting and relaxation requires the continued presence of our students.

Even today, the area has developed an unfavorable reputation as an area of deteriorating public order: the complete absence of University students and staff could accelerate the development of the Hofgarten, as experienced during the pandemic, into an area of intensive police presence, video surveillance and control. The move during the pandemic to digital remote teaching has been proven to have resulted in a deterioration in the level of criminality and the general public order situation in and around the Hofgarten. The need to maintain university operations in the Hofgarten is therefore of fundamental importance to the whole City and not just a question for University members.

Seeking to address this situation in a proactive and beneficial manner, the University is proposing to erect one or more ecologically sound and architecturally attractive temporary structures to replace the teaching space lost through the renovation of the main building. These facilities will not just provide alternative university accommodation, but will also host a number of cultural events from both University and non-University groups alike.

Maintaining the central location of the University will also relieve the mobility burden on several thousand of our students, obviating the need to undertake long commuting journeys.

The University prioritizes the maintenance of its presence in the beating heart of Bonn, thereby showing solidarity with the efforts of the municipal authorities to maintain the city as an attractive place to live and work. To this end, the University is currently engaged in an intensive consultation exercise involving all the relevant stakeholders.

Detailed information

Significant sections of today’s palace were built during the period of post-war reconstruction and reflect the standards of the 1940s and 50s. Sixty years of intensive use means that not only is the fabric of building a “little long in the tooth” but the technical infrastructure and floor plan of the University main building no longer satisfy modern standards. The entire building is in urgent need of comprehensive renewal.

Changes to fire regulations have also taken their toll and many areas of the building have been forced to close in recent years. Other areas have already consumed considerable resources just to keep them open. The situation is complicated by the status of the baroque palace as a listed building and the need to comply with exacting conservation standards.

With a floor space of 26,000 square meters, the palace is the largest of the some 200 buildings in Bonn currently used by the university. The renovation plan foresees a growth in the available floor space to satisfy growing needs for university facilities. To this end, the Viktoriakarree is under consideration as the location of a new central library, embedded in a “Knowledge Forum”, a space for learning, communication and encounter. 

The Rectorate’s “WE for our palace” strategy which has had the support of all University bodies and sought to complete the renovation of the palace and prepare the University to meet the challenges of the future, will be implemented further via these important steps.

The Wittelsbach Elector Ernst of Bavaria was the first to make Bonn his official residence, establishing it as the capital of the Electorate of Cologne at the end of the 16th century. Following the destruction of the palace during a war some 100 years later, Elector Joseph Clemens of Bavaria laid the foundations for a new, even more ostentatious palace. Nevertheless a serious fire in 1777 resulted in the destruction of the new four-story palace, from which only the Hofgarten wing of the palace with its two corner towers was re-built. Electoral rule in Cologne ended with the French Revolution and the Rhineland was awarded to Prussia after the Napoleonic wars.

Not needing a further palace, King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia donated it, together with Poppelsdorf Palace, to the newly-established University of Bonn, which had been founded on October 18, 1818. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Elector’s Residence was extended into a four-wing complex in accordance with the original plans, so as to meet the increasing needs for space of the growing university. Suffering serious bomb damage during the Second World War, the palace was rebuilt again after 1945.

Both the Elector’s Palace and Poppelsdorf Palace belong to the University of Bonn, but have been leased to the NRW state construction and real estate agency, which maintains and markets the buildings.

Today, the historical building hosts a number of disciplines from the Faculty of Arts, both faculties of theology and a range of administrative units.


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Andreas Archut

Press Officer and Director of University Communications
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Nils Sönksen

Deputy Press Officer

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