WorkSpace – Research Lab at Roundhouse Aachen West // Lena Kurzawa

Key Info

Basic Information

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

The partly listed roundhouse and its accompanying functional building are some of the few remains of the former depot “Aachen West” and are now the initiator for the design for a new, vigorous area as part of the RWTH Aachen University campus expansion.

The four main uses, conference, work, leisure, accommodation, are incubators for the area around the roundhouse and the turntable in front of it. They each anticipate a new identity for the location and its users through different urban and architectural features.

The key to the spatial structure is an approx. 120 m long building that houses a “shared working space” for students, scientists and guest researchers of the university. It shapes the area both externally and internally.

The translucent polycarbonate facade, partly covered by a mesh, functions as screen for the shadow play caused by the users inside the building. It shows the dynamic exchange inside the structure to the street and the train tracks accompanying the building’s length. The traffic is given a show which presents itself as the northern gate of the new campus expansion.
Internally, the Shared Working complex confines the space in front of the roundhouse. It establishes a square for retreat between the existing building, the working space and the new conference building. It is both the thematic and geometric center that offers a gathering place for all users of the surrounding buildings. The outdoor dining area, an open auditorium, a hedge theatre and numerous opportunities to linger form the outdoor area.

The southern conference area, with its transparent facade, encloses the listed coal stage. The display case-like building transitions between the cluster development of various institutes in the south of the area and the WorkSpace. Additionally, the visitor, coming from the south, is caught by the attraction of the enclosed ruins of the coal stage. The paths follow the former tracks of the original facility and lead the visitor, strolling underneath the joining bridge between the conference building and the workspace, towards the square.

The roundhouse and the adjoining original workshop host a student brewery and the associated catering and tap room. The spacial concept of workshops that primarily shaped the construction of the original structure furthermore determines its concept of design. The roundhouse thus creates a place for experimentation within the research of the university. Numerous, integrated glass boxes in the large, segment-circular workshop of the shed, showcase the process of brewing beer and thus exhibits the scientific expertise. The affiliated hop cultivation also finds architectural expression as it partakes in forming the outside square.
Additional service and utility rooms such as kitchen, stock rooms and offices are located within the remaining structure of the workshop building. Every aspect of the new architecture is following the concept of defining space while being minimally invasive.

In terms of urban development, the workshop building leads towards the most northern zone of the area and formulates a connection to the residential development. It forms the transition to the green space and the outskirts of Aachen, so that the residents benefit from a distinct privacy. It is increased by a punctual building development and the orientation of the individual buildings to each other. The green space in between creates a neighborly place of exchange, which is intensified by intended meeting areas, e.g. hammocks, a barbecue area, a multifunctional room and common rooms in the individual houses.

The modules, built as a wooden stud structure, are beneficial for the versatile, sustainable and economic planning of three different house types. By integrating built-in furniture, the visiting scientist or lecturer, for whom these apartments are planned for, is offered a homely atmosphere.

Thus, the original location of the workshop becomes a place of work and exchange, with research and science replacing the actual product - the locomotive. The roundhouse and its surroundings become a place where no longer craftsmanship collaborates, but diverse thinkers engage with each other through a unifying architecture.