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Unfolding knowledge: the latest addition to Magdeburg University's campus is a new library with a generous, dynamic interior.

Located on the river Elbe, Magdeburg's Otto von Guericke University is slowly but steadily establishing an enviable collection of contemporary architecture. New work for the 10 000 strong campus began in 1995 to a masterplan by Berlin-based architects Hufnagel, Putz and Rafaelian. Peter Kulka's elegantly understated Faculty of Science was the first new building, soon followed by Sauerbruch Hutton's candy-striped Research Institute (AR January 2002) and Gunter Henn's design for the Max Planck Society.

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Last autumn these were joined by another outstanding contemporary addition, the new university library by Auer + Weber. Within Germany, the Stuttgart and Munich-based partnership has established a notable reputation dating back to the time when its founding members collaborated with Gunter Behnisch on the design of the Munich Olympic Stadium roof. Today, Auer + Weber are known for a refined approach to form and space, and an inventive, economic use of materials. Recent projects include a hotel for European astronomers in Chile's Atacama Desert (AR June 2003).

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The site boundary for the new library reflects the pre-war era when the area was a thriving bourgeois housing quarter. Flattened by Allied bombing raids, little remains apart from the street layout. However Auer + Weber respected the old city grid and, for instance, resurfaced the adjacent Ludlof Strasse with cobblestones. Despite this historical reference, all other aspects of the architecture clearly allude to the twenty-first century. Christoph Lueder, chief designer and project architect, developed a modern and visionary response to the 1998 competition brief: a continuous strip of concrete folded six times, each fold creating a new level on the triangular site.

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The main entrance turns away from the street, facing north towards a courtyard defined by the uniform blocks of a lecture hall, computing building and the refectory. Here in the courtyard, visitors initially encounter the strip of concrete which becomes the first fold. This concrete pavement extends into the building and takes you up a straight ramp, partly covered by an elegantly sweeping timber staircase. The first level is synonymous with the second fold.

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On this level, with its generous, bright, daylit spaces, you become aware of the particular qualities of the architecture. Looking up and down the central atrium, traversed by diagonally intersecting floors and walkways, its compositional rigour and strength are evident. The eye follows the floor lines and you begin to understand the inherent logic of the stacked floorplates. In structural terms, long and slender reinforced-concrete columns support the floors in an unobtrusive 8.4m grid. Otherwise three independent cores stabilize the daring construction. The challenging geometry of the folds gives rise to the unconventional spatial configuration of the terraced spaces, and the generous, dynamic layout evokes memories of Scharoun's iconic Berlin Library.

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The 'library as a landscape' is a succinctly organized microcosm in which each fold has been given over to one faculty consisting of a service core, book storage space, reading tables and carrels which can be booked for individual studying. In total there are spaces for 600 students and 150 desks with computer points. The library has 800 000 books on open storage with a further 400 000 in the basement magazine. The lucid spatial concept is also followed through in terms of detailing, with ceilings free from clutter, exposing the bare concrete. The 300mm floor slabs have a 250mm raised floor, sufficient to house all electrical and data cabling as well as providing room for displacement ventilation. A specially designed free-standing funnel sucks in hot air directly from under the sloping glazed roof of the atrium.

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Conservation of energy was as much a preoccupation of the original designs as the constructive and extensive use of natural light. Instead of screening out daylight, Auer + Weber employ the latest Siemens prismatic technology to filter the sun's rays. Adjustable two-storey high louvres of acrylic-glass prisms protect parts of the south-west facade. The same technology filters the sun on the glass atrium roof. So students can enjoy studying in broad daylight, free from glare and reflections.

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Throughout the interior, materials are used simply but elegantly. Bright concrete walls, ceilings and columns predominate, cast using white sand from the nearby river Elbe. All steelwork (including the bookcases and window frames) is dark grey. Floors on the entrance level and the public part of the basement are concrete and parquet, and study areas have light grey carpets. All staircases and walkways are made of laminated wood. Bold reds and greens animate the timber shuttering of the cores, and, together with the saturated yellow of the carrels, these punctuate and enliven the facade.

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Both from inside and out, the new building reads as a paradoxically big but slender structure, with its slim floor lines zig-zagging across the facades, the calm rhythm of the columns and the large floor-to-ceiling windows. At no time does the drama of the fold appear as a shallow hype. Instead, Auer + Weber's bold yet intelligently judged building is now the new jewel in the crown of Magdeburg University's evolving campus.

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Architect

Auer + Weber, Stuttgart

Project team

Gotz Guggenberger, Christoph Lueder, Svetlana Curcic, Armin Kammer.Jurgen Weigl, Christoph van Heyden, Holger Schurk

Structural engineer

Leonhardt, Andra & Partner

Mechnical engineer

Ebert Ingenieure

Photographs

Roland Halbe/ARTUR

UNIVERSITY LIBRARY,

MAGDEBURG, GERMANY

ARCHITECT

AUER + WEBER
COPYRIGHT 2004 EMAP Architecture
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Auer + Weber
Author:Brensing, Christian
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:901
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