Vorstadtikone – St. Hubertus by Gottfried Böhm. Visiting the "Backenzahn"

  Four posters with colourful backgrounds showing the silhouettes of a rock-like church Copyright: © Graphics team "Vorstadtikone"  

Vorstadtikone – St. Hubertus by Gottfried Böhm. Visiting the "Backenzahn"

At the foot of Aachen's Kronenberg there is the Church of St. Hubertus, completed in 1964 – an architectural gem designed by Gottfried Böhm. Once a lively quarter church, the building, sometimes referred to as the "Backenzahn" in the local vernacular, is now rarely used. The Chair of Architectural History has dedicated two whole semesters to this "suburban icon" in the form of a combinatorial design as well as a student research and exhibition project.

In the first part of the project, the participating students had to develop an – initially fictitious – alternative use for the church building and the insula. The spatial and functional potential of the formerly slate-covered "concrete rock" was to be explored and convincing visions were to be drawn up that would turn this place, which was actually intended to be the centre of the district, into a lively centre of attraction again. The result were five concepts for reuse and design worthy of discussion, all of which respect the listed church building but structurally complement it in totally different ways.

In the second part of the project and under the title "Vorstadtikone", an exhibition about the church of St. Hubertus in and around the church of St. Hubertus was realized. The aim of the exhibition was, besides showing the results of the above-mentioned design project, to create an awareness, even an appreciation, for this rather unknown building which is – above all – perhaps also “misunderstood” due to its extraordinary, yet peculiar architectural language.

The exhibition and guidance system developed by the students was both creative and sustainable at the same time: They built a kind of station path from shelves purchased second-hand from a well-known Swedish furniture manufacturer, which led through and around the church and provided information in a variety of multi-media ways about the (in some cases certainly surprising) peculiarities of the church building and its architectural history. The individual stations illustrated, for example, whether and to what extent changes had been made at the corresponding points compared to Gottfried Böhm's original planning. Ultimately, it was the Church building itself that became the exhibit on a scale of 1:1.

In addition to large-scale projections of three self-produced films and interviews about St. Hubertus, parts of the original slate cladding to "touch," and an exhibition guide, two special exhibition areas complemented the church stations: Under the organ gallery, the "Böhm Pergola" introduced visitors to the life and work of the architect and provided an architectural-historical classification of St. Hubertus in the series of his sacral oeuvre. In the baptistery, which can always be read as a place of renewal, the students' visions for the future of the church and the insula mentioned at the beginning were presented.

The exhibition "Vorstadtikone" was sustainable in at least a triple sense: The shelf elements of the station path were resold after the exhibition ended and thus returned to their original use - almost a "zero waste" concept. The exhibition content on the other hand generated a lasting public interest in the Church and its future. And the net income of the entire project in the amount of € 1070.70 was donated to the Aachen Children's, Youth and Family Center "Maria im Tann" – another sustainable "plus" for a really good cause.


Further Information

Further information about the exhibition can be found here.


Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Naujokat
Dipl.-Ing. Architektin Verena Hake
Dr.-Ing. Caroline Helmenstein