Competition 1994 – 1st Prize
Design Meinhard von Gerkan
Project management Dirk Heller, Astrid Lapp
Project team Angelika Juppien, Knut Maass, Ralf Schmitz, Michele Watenphul
Client Staatshochbauamt Chemnitz
Construction period 1996–1998
Gross floor area 8,856 m²
Volume 51,766 m³
In the initial euphoria of freedom and expansion after the German reunification, the Chemnitz Institute of Technology initiated a town-planning competition for the ambitious extension of the university campus. First of all a large auditoria and seminar building as well as an institute should be built, followed by a library. Gmp’s winning concept suggested a linear structure, offering flexibility for long-term development, and an entrance forum to be framed by auditoria and libraries. Of all the proposed buildings, the auditoria complex was the only to be constructed, which was considerably reduced in scale from its original dimension.
Euphoria gave way to disillusionment, with the development site being sacrificed to the uncontrolled expansion of commercial sites. Presently the auditoria are the final and not as originally conceived the first phase of future extension, this fact is reflected in the strong building structure. A line of seminar rooms frames a foyer volume, located underneath two large auditoria, with their inclined floors, which follow the ascending seating arrangement, being visible from the underside. The building arrangement allows for natural lighting into the inner foyer zones, despite the large depth of the buildings, where vertical voids with top lights were intended. This renders a light and cheerful ambience in contrast to the darkness reminiscent in many large universities.
The two large auditoria are also not classified as "black boxes"; the sky panorama provides mental stimulation for the students. The other dominant design characteristic is the intense colouring of walls and ceilings. This does not correspond to the initial design concept, but has been developed during the realization phase due to radical financial restrictions and from the architect’s impressions gained during a journey to Mexico. The most economic material for extensive wall and ceiling surfaces is plaster, applying colour thereafter is reasonable. The visit to buildings of Baragan and Legoretto offered the stimulation to gain outstanding design results via simple means. The daring use of colour has also been a response to the otherwise grey dullness of the town with sparse tower blocks. The building declares its modesty and shows the principle of simplicity also in the reduction and discipline of details. The colour choice and the design of rooms with surfaces instead of volumes is the result of an intensive experimental process, opening a new chapter in the oeuvre of gmp.
The principle of economic simplicity, were the building was complete far below the initial budget, has ramifications on all other design decisions:
- industrial screed for floors
- perforated metal sheets for ceilings
- corrugated sheet steel on the facade
- steel escape stairs, located externally between the auditoria.