Thinking the future – Showing the future // Miriam Wittbusch

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Miriam Wittbusch
Master of Science
Stefanie Kerner
Prof. Christian Raabe
Prof. Rolf Westerheide
Chair for Historic Building Conservation and Research

New exhibition building for the RWTH at the roundhouse Aachen West


“Nothing in science has any value to society if it is not communicated..”

Anne Roe, The making of a scientist (1953)

The area at the roundhouse has a key urban planning function in the campus extension of the RWTH and is intended to link the individual campuses Melaten and West in a campus landscape of the RWTH. The aim of this new RWTH campus is to develop solutions for future topics in cooperation with the economy. As a new urban building block, the area has a representative potential, which is why a showcase for the RWTH is to be created here, which will present this research to the public and enable a place for exchange of knowledge between the university, economy and society.


The urban planning objective of this project focuses on three main features. On the one hand, the design creates a new central campus, where both the RWTH as a science institution and its students can present themselves with their campus life. On the other hand, iconic buildings strengthen the RWTH's identity in the public space. Due to the strengthened international reach, a boarding house for guest scientists will be placed as a third building block as an introverted antipole to the RWTH's exhibition at the roundhouse.

The urban development concept generates a duality between the northern and southern part of the area. In the southern part is the boarding house consisting of five parallel rows of flats with access to arcades. The green space flows past the rows and joins the main street as a green buffer. In front of the living quarters, the former coal platform is exposed as a relic from the time when the railway was used with the communal pavilion of the residential rows, where various activities can take place. Grouped around it is an observation tower, which is backlit at night with the RWTH's message 'thinking the future' and offers visitors a new perspective - as is often required in science. As a vertical element, the tower represents a balance to the structural agglomeration in the northern area. As cross-connection there is an avenue for bicycles and several pedestrian paths. Thus the campus feeling is reinforced with large green spaces, especially with the experimental green space behind the roundhouse.

In the north there is a concentrated ensemble of buildings. It consists of the roundhouse as a new experimental hall, the adjoining workshop bar and the new exhibition section with restaurant and seminars. With a closed edge towards the campus band, the edge of the city is emphasized and views to the tracks are created so that the showcase becomes Aachen's city gate.

The exhibition functions as a large showcase, whereby the building itself becomes the exhibiting object. By making the wooden skeleton structure and the building technology on the roof visible, the building can be experienced by visitors and becomes an exhibition machine, which itself as a technology-based object becomes a symbol of the RWTH. Direct visual links to the tracks allow visitors to look inside the exhibition and at the same time look out to the outside. A contemplative moment is created between the exhibition and the rails as a symbol of technology and progress and the echo of the area's past.


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