After just eighteen months’ construction (for the engineering sciences department buildings), the Ruhr University in Bochum opened with great symbolic significance in 1965. The building complex by Hentrich, Petschnigg and Partner, which was completed by 1974, combines faculties, lecture halls, cafeterias, and dormitories for thousands of students. It is a classic of Brutalism in Germany. The Ruhr University, the first newly founded university in West Germany after World War II, was intended to open up the traditional working-class region of the Ruhr to academic instruction; an exemplar of the new beginning in education policy of the postwar years.
The plan in Bochum, In keeping with the Humboldtian ideal of education, emphasized not only the unity of research and teaching but also the equal value of all the faculties, which was also to be expressed in its architecture. Following a competition in 1962, for which a total of eightyfive designs were submitted, the architects of the firm Hentrich, Petschnigg and Partner were commissioned.
On a lot approximately 400 by 900 meters located south of the city, on the edge of an elevation above the Kemnader Lake, this complex of buildings was literally created out of nothing. A uniform grid for the buildings and skeleton construction permitted rapid implementation: the prefabricated concrete elements were formed on site using industrial casting processes. Rather than isolated individual buildings, the result was a self-contained campus, on which the thirteen original main buildings were grouped in four symmetrical complexes around the cafeteria, main auditorium, library, and the University Forum. All of the façades are exposed concrete, which was a very modern material at the time. The design thrives on the contrast between low structures and the tall buildings of the institutes, large windowless surfaces, and the rather filigreed bridges, parapets, and balconies that run through the entire complex.
The complex testifies to the optimism of that era. The university offers a symbolic harbor to the teaching of science in which the individual elements are anchored like ships. With twenty faculties for more than 43,000 students, the university covers the full spectrum of academic disciplines. Since 2015, the building complex has been a protected historical landmark. It has been gradually renovated since 2007: by the end of 2018, roughly a third of the original building fabric had been renovated, but several buildings had to be demolished and replaced by new buildings (by Gerber Architekten, among others); several new research buildings were or are being built. [DB/HY]
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