Jacobs University is a private, state-recognised university with an international outlook, located in Grohn, a district of Bremen. To satisfy growing student numbers and the increasing emphasis being placed on university sports, Jacobs University deci- ded to convert its pre-existing campus sport facilities into a multi-usage building. The contract for the work was awarded to the architect Max Dudler in January 2011.
The Sports and Convention Center stands on its own within the university’s park-like campus. Due to its setting and its plain, striking architecture, the building forms the new focal point of the complex. At the center of the new building is the large hall, surrounded by a ring of functional rooms. The layout somewhat resembles the ring hall and cella of an ancient temple. This impression is further conveyed by the exterior, with its bold colonnade of clinker brickwork as well as the hall roof’s raised central section. A filigree pillar configuration divides the building’s brickwork facade into a series of enclosed sections. In cont- rast to the heavy brickwork, generously-sized frameless glass windows open up the building on all sides. Light domes ensure that the stands for spectators on the upper floor receive a copious amount of daylight.
To enhance the new building’s significance for the university, its architectural style is typologically orientated towards important classical buildings such as Berlin’s Altes Museum by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, as well as classical modern buildings such as the Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The facade of the new building, with its affirmation of North German Brickwork Expressionism, also takes into consideration Bremen and the architecture of the other buildings on the American-inspired campus.
The building’s central hall can be used in many ways as either a single-, dual- or quadruple-use sports hall for nearly all types of indoor sports at a national league level. Furthermore, it can be re-arranged to host official events and conferences accom- modating up to 1500 people. Grouped around the central hall are further areas of the building: a training tank with eight-man rowing equipment, a fitness center, a tea kitchen as well as various recreation areas, storage rooms for sports equipment and a large foyer. Changing rooms, shower and sanitary facilities round off the convention center’s infrastructure.
Interview with MAX DUDLER regarding The New Center
Jacobs University is a meeting place for people of all cultures, a place where knowledge is transferred. To what extent were you and your design influenced by this particular role the university plays?
You will discover in our architecture what at first sight may seem like two contradictory tendencies: the striving for a universal architectural language, but also the desire to absorb both the physical and spiritual meaning of the location to make it discernible in the architecture. At first, owing to the strict arrangement of its interior, the new building in Bremen seems to make reference to nothing beyond its own walls. But if you take a closer look at the building, you will start to notice that we sought to establish connections with a variety of architectural precedents and ideas closely related to the location. I believe that in architecture, the contradiction I mentioned at the beginning dissolves. This I understand also to hold true for the institution of Jacobs University itself. It is well-versed in the ways of the world, dedicated to the international exchange of ideas, but at the same time is located within a traditional Hanseatic city.
What is of particular importance to you when designing university buildings?
The buildings of a university, in particular a campus’ sport facilities and meeting rooms, are very special buildings within a townscape. They must possess not just structural but also aesthetic longevity, enduring in both a physical and creative sense. These are buildings to which many memories will be attached, and leave their imprint on a place over a long period of time. It’s both a great honour and an incentive for us to be able to think beyond whatever the prevailing architectural trends may be. We want to create forms which retain a credible position within the unfolding history of architecture – and which to a degree also point the way towards the future.
While designing the Sports and Convention Center, why did you decide to make stylistic reference to structures representing both ancient and modern times?
Jacobs University has been successfully laid out along the lines of the American campus university. These lines are heavily influenced by classicism. Think of Thomas Jefferson’s fantastic University of Virginia. We wanted to find our own associations with this formal language. That’s why we also researched how architects such as Mies van der Rohe interpreted this style, such as in the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. But we also departed from these terms of reference so as to be able to find our own way. By the way, one of the influences on our building is the specifically North German usage of brickwork.
Due to which the multi-usage building harmonises with the architecture of the campus?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, the building is intended more than just to harmonise. Out of its function came the requirement to create a new focal point. The building is intended to make an imprint on the campus.
The multi-usage building is used for university sports as well as for official events. How does the building fulfil these differing functions?
The building is convertible – in many respects. For everyday use it is possible to sub-divide the hall into four smaller halls. But on top of this, almost all types of indoor sport events can be held at a national league level. It is equipped with spectator stands. Special scenery has been designed to be used during official occasions. The use of carpets sets an official tone as well as improving the acoustics. I hope you will be able to experience this for yourself during the interview with Max Dudler to mark the opening of Jacobs University’s new Sports and Convention Center in front of a planned 1500 guests at the graduation ceremony being held on 8 June.
What other rooms and possibilities does the building offer to the students and tutors who will be using it?
We’re particularly proud of the rowing tank which can accommodate an entire eight-man crew. But there’s also a fully-equipped fitness center, thus providing ideal conditions for those studying in Bremen.
Location: Bremen, Germany
Type: Sports – Public
Client: Jacobs University Bremen GmbH
Architects: A collaboration between MAX DUDLER – www.maxdudler.com– and DIETRICH Architekten + Ingenieure – www.dietrich-hb.de–
Building Area: 4450 m2 gross surface area
Design and Construction Period: June 2010 until June 2012
Construction Cost: 8 million Euros
Photos: Stefan Müller