22. April 2022

“We need University life at the heart of this city” Development for the University Hofgarten – construction slated for 2024

Development for the University Hofgarten – construction slated for 2024

Renovation of the University of Bonn main building to start in 2024. An emblematic structure whose history is interwoven with that of the city: the Electoral Palace—the University’s hallmark building for 200 years. Destroyed by war but restored ... and even so the structure today no longer adequately reflects the stature of  a University of Excellence. Thus for a major renovation the entire building will have to be vacated, with considerable consequences for central Bonn likely until this minimum ten-year project is completed.

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Avoiding disruption, according to University Rector Michael Hoch, is thus a primary concern. “The Palace is in many ways the living heart of the University, and the city of Bonn itself, really. Thousands of people come here to study, learn and work.” Yet the passage of decades has brought an ever-swelling renovation backlog. As experts are aware, fire safety concerns are sharply in the foreground. Nor is the infrastructure in any way adequate for modern research and teaching requirements, such as spaces for communication and rooms for individual and group work. Dr. Hoch: “We would like to expressly thank the state government and the BLB again for committing to this much-overdue renovation, which now comes as the fruition of our ‘“WE for our palace”’ campaign of recent years.”

As the University’s largest building with roughly 26,000 sqm floorspace, the renovation is to be conducted in two construction phases, the first of which will start in 2024. There are also several new buildings in planning at the Viktoriakarree (Knowledge Forum) as well as an extension of the east wing and renovation of the Etscheidhof building.

“The main building is a hub of activity for the city, with economic importance as well,” elaborated Rector Hoch, “People after all don’t stay in the building all the time; they go out for lunch and visit the wide range of shops and use city services during breaks.” If the University were to leave the central urban area, all that would be lost. And above all, the 2,000 sqm and more of lecture hall space would be acutely missed, as no good replacement is currently on offer.

“There is universal support at our institution for keeping university life anchored in the city center,” Hoch emphasized, “and we will be taking steps to mitigate the economic impact in the surrounding area of the Hofgarten resulting from lengthy renovation.” As seen in lockdown, even shorter pauses in university activity lead to declining quality of life in the area around Hofgarten, as reflected in reporting by University Security. “That’s why we engaged with all university bodies to develop creative plans for how to optimally work through these next few years together,” Dr. Hoch related, such as using the northern tip of the Hofgarten lawn for holding lectures. Provost Holger Gottschalk: “We are looking at sophisticated architectural solutions, including particularly sustainable temporary modular structures.” Such structures would enhance this entire campus area while the renovation is ongoing, and afterwards can be reused in other locations. “These plans are aligned with our sustainability efforts,” Gottschalk continued, noting how such structures could provide substitute auditorium capacity, and even be used by the city’s non-university organizations.

“We believe such a solution will ensure that getting to class doesn’t become a problem for students and instructors, as a vibrant place of learning arises in the Hofgarten,” explained Rector Hoch, noting that speed is of the essence now in getting the planning done and work started to create the temporary facilities. “We want to have an agreement in place with the city of Bonn by the summer so we can kick off implementation of this important measure.”

The Hofgarten at the main building.
The Hofgarten at the main building. - Prevent the entire area around the Hofgarten from suffering for a long period of time during the renovation: Lectures and seminars could continue to take place in interim buildings at the northern tip of the Hofgarten. © Volker Lannert
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