Lecture Hall, Universität Erlangen - Nürnberg - Germany
The rational structure of an institutional building from the 1970s acts as an enabler for change: the basis was completely emptied and refilled, but the rest was left untouched. The new elements adjust themselves to the existing structure’s internal systems and logic.
The expansion of the lecture hall complex 115 of Friederich-Alexander-Universität in Erlangen is a kind of “plug-in”: the architects gutted the ground level completely, fitting it with new rooms.
The two-story lecture hall that linked the two seven-story towers now unites them as a shared base. The institute building complex (built in 1972) was too small for the growing number of students; thus new classrooms were to be integrated in the foyer, while the entire building ensemble would be upgraded through the renovations.
Initially, Schulz & Schulz Architects were hardly convinced by the outer appearance of the complex. Yet upon closer examination of the strict, formal arrangement and grid structure of the existing buildings, they discovered inherent qualities in the flexible use construction of the modular arrangement that they chose to maintain as well as develop.
The conversion was approached with a sense of respect for the “structural beauty of the original building”. The clear distinctions between the structure and enclosure, as well as the grid of 1.2 meters were maintained and emphasized in the new façade. Despite the need for more space, the architects decided not to enlarge the building’s overall footprint. Instead, new rooms were constructed around the open space of the ground floor. Inside, the stairs are now freestanding, and the original prefab ceiling structure was fit with sculptural overhead lighting that is similar in style.
The existing material mix is now uniform in color, underlining the stringency of the structural architecture and resulting in a new corresponding formality.
The original hallway, which had been much too large and dark, was converted into a foyer and main entrance for the entire complex. It was also important for the architects that the close relationship between old and new be visible from the outside. The new ground floor façade features black, vertical slats providing shade from the sun, whose prefab concrete elements distinguish them from the upper floors.
Their rhythm, however, relates them in such a way to the structure of the original building that it is hard to identify them as “new”. In its overall appearance, the complex conveys a clear sense of unity.