Technische Hochschule Ulm
In addition to Max Bill’s School of Design (HfG), Ulm boasts another formative post-war modernist building: the functionalist campus of today’s Ulm University of Applied Sciences (THU). In 1958, Günter Behnisch submitted a compelling design in the international architectural competition for the “State School of Engineering”. The university was the first public institution in Germany to be erected using chiefly prefabricated parts. The beams, columns, façades and its floor and ceiling slabs were industrially prefabricated and assembled on site. This construction method was cost effective and, above all, it was fast. After construction got underway in the summer of 1961, Ulm’s School of Engineering was already finished and ready for occupancy in the autumn of 1962.
The campus is embedded harmoniously into its hillside location. In addition to two offset 100-metre-long buildings that contain the seminar rooms, the complex includes a low-rise connecting building and an inner courtyard. The materials used, mainly concrete, steel and glass, give the ensemble a clear, cool appearance. Even though the design had placed utmost value on precise organisation and functionality, the buildings are friendly and bright inside thanks to the unimpeded circulation areas and open stairways.
The intentionally pared-down aesthetic of the building group not only reflects the frugality of the post-war era, but also the socio-political attitude of its architect, Behnisch, who, over the course of his successful career, gained a reputation as the “master builder of democracy”. In his work, he placed great value on openness, freedom and “constructional honesty”. Ulm’s School of Engineering, today the University of the Applied Sciences, was a key work for Behnisch and his office, and paved the way for subsequent large-scale projects, such as the Olympic Stadium in Munich and the Plenary Chamber Building for the German Bundestag in Bonn.
The campus as a whole has been listed as a historical monument since 2001. Step by step, from 1999 to 2012 the buildings were refurbished in a manner that reflects their historical status and, importantly, were upgraded to comply with current standards for energy efficiency and building services. Around 4,000 students currently attend the university. [KM/DK]