Settings for Academia© Anina Janich
Settings for Academia. The Buildings of RWTH Aachen University from 1870 to the Present
In 2020, RWTH Aachen celebrated the 150th anniversary of its foundation. The Chair of Architectural History used this occasion as an opportunity to embark on a first coherent documentation and scholarly re-evaluation of the portfolio of buildings created for the university over the decades, based on a detailed analysis of both their tangible fabric and construction-era publications and archival sources.
To this end, the Chair has on the one hand held a series of courses in which it became possible to reconstruct the genesis of many of the characteristic buildings of RWTH and to situate them within the overall architectural currents of the late 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. On the other hand, the students’ efforts were accompanied by the various staff members’ own research initiatives.
The investigations range from the foundation building, today's Main Building, whose façades still reflect the struggle to endow a polytechnic education with academic credentials, right up to the architectural activities of the last few years, with which RWTH underlined its international reputation. Important stages in the development of the campuses are also represented by buildings such as the Rogowski Institute and the Institute for Electrical Machines, with which in the 1920s the search for new forms reached its first peak, the Audimax, the Studentendorf halls of residence and the Königshügel sports facilities, which attempted the balancing act between tradition and new beginnings after the Second World War, the Faculty Buildings for Mechanical Engineering and for General Sciences, which applied the idea of disaggregated urban structures to the university grounds, the Computing Center and the Towers student accomodation, through which the architectural movement of brutalism found its way into Aachen's university buildings, the University Hospital and the Kármán lecture halls, which each in their own way represent an interim tendency towards large-scale structures, or the "Baumhaus" and the SuperC, which gave the faculty of the Architecture Department the opportunity to explore new structural solutions.
The first tangible result of the research will be an architectural guidebook, which is currently at the final editing stage and should appear in print by 2022. In this way, the project not only hopes to contribute to an increased awareness of the architectural qualities of the university buildings, but also to promote their preservation.