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Modernisation of main university building

The huge task

Plans for the modernisation of the University of Bielefeld main building are in progress.

The move into the new replacement building (in the fourth quarter of 2013) will mark the start of the first of six phases of construction. The whole building is set to be state of the art by 2025, with attractive research, teaching, study and working conditions.

The 154,000 m² main building at the University of Bielefeld is one of the biggest continuous buildings in Europe. The complete modernisation of the building over several phases of construction is being handled by Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb NRW (BLB NRW) as the owner and client together with the University of Bielefeld. BLB NRW has initiated a planning procedure. In the context of this closed VOF award procedure (VOF = award rules for professional services), suitable firms of architects and planners will be invited to submit planning concepts for the modernisation of the main university building. Results are expected in the autumn of 2012.

The solutions thus devised for the first phase of construction will be adopted as the central theme for the five subsequent stages of building work. The planners are pursuing some key aims which will be implemented in the first phase of construction, over the period from early 2014 to early 2016. The following are special focuses of attention: redesigning the main entrance, redesigning the façade including more efficient use of energy, replacing the building services, extensive gutting of the remaining existing buildings, forming a central service area and creating a higher quality workspace for research, teaching and study.

As well as the planned improvements, however, the intention is also to preserve the essential ideas of the main university building for the future. In particular, the function of the central foyer as a forum for communication and interaction between students, academic staff and researchers and also a linking area with student catering, the main lecture hall, other lecture halls and the library as well as numerous other facilities has proved extremely successful and is regarded as a unique structural feature of the University of Bielefeld in the university sector.

The dimensions of the scheduled work are colossal, as the building dating from 1972-1976 covers an area of some 410 metres long by 230 metres wide. The individual parts of the building have as many as 11 upper storeys and up to 3 basement levels. About 22,000 people currently study and work at the University of Bielefeld. These data and technical details give some idea of the size of the task facing BLB NRW. An external firm appointed to carry out a survey reported that after nearly 40 years of use the building was in need of extensive modernisation. Apart from modern-day requirements in terms of working, teaching, research and study conditions, things like compliance with the new fire safety and energy efficiency regulations were decisive factors in the report's conclusions.

Modernisation has already begun with the construction of the new replacement building, which is needed in order to maintain the customary high standard of teaching and research while the modernisation work takes place and to create space for the first phase of construction. From autumn 2013 the new building will house the Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology and the Faculty of Sociology as well as the canteen run by the student welfare services for the joint use of the University and the University of Applied Sciences. Modernisation of the main building can then begin.

Facts and figures

Start of modernisation 4th quarter 2013 (planned)
Phases of construction 6
Scheduled completion 2025
Client BLB NRW Bielefeld

In the late 1960s the University site was still a cornfield on the city outskirts. The cranes in the background indicate the construction of the Aufbau- und Verfügungszentrum, where teaching started on 17 November 1969 with three faculties and 270 students.