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Major renovation planned: University of Bonn main building to be closed for years

Major renovation planned : University of Bonn main building to be closed for years

The main building of the University of Bonn will become a major construction site. Next year, according to the plan, all students and staff will have to move. The main building will then be closed for ten to 15 years due to extensive renovation work.

Major developments are in store for the University of Bonn. Next year, it plans to empty its entire main building between Koblenzer Tor and the street Am Neutor, closing it for a core renovation and repairs. University spokesman Andreas Archut is estimating that it could possibly take ten to 15 years of work, rendering the lecture halls, practice rooms and offices unavailable.

The main building in the middle of Bonn's city center is the former Electoral Palace, where about 10,000 students of the Department of Philosophy and the Catholic and Protestant Theological Departments as well as about 1,000 lecturers and other employees of the university normally studied and worked before the pandemic began. They will have to move to other buildings; according to Archut, the leases are about to be signed.

The university needs around 30,000 square meters

Archut is not yet able to say which buildings will be used for the interim. Those familiar with the area in the city near the main building, however, know that the former Zurich building on Rabinstrasse opposite the Old Cemetery has been vacant since the insurance company moved to a new building in Cologne-Deutz. The new owner of that building, the real estate company Corpus Sireo, is looking for prospective tenants. The university needs around 30,000 square meters. So a large part of the interim operations could well find space in the striking building with a parking garage on Rabinstrasse, all built in the late 1990s.

Five years ago, Corpus Sireo acquired the office buildings of Zurich Insurance in Südstadt in the area of Poppelsdorfer Allee, Bonner Talweg and Prinz-Albert-Strasse as well as on Rabinstrasse. Some of the buildings in the Südstadt square have been demolished and new apartments are to be built there. In the case of the round building opposite the Old Cemetery, the latest rumor was that the Federal Agency for Civic Education (BpB) was to become the new tenant. However, BpB spokesman Daniel Kraft confirmed to the GA at the time that they had withdrawn and wanted to keep their headquarters on Adenauerallee for the time being.

The owner of the university buildings is Construction and Real Estate Services of the state of NRW

Back to the main building: Archut was not able to give more concrete information about the overall planning at the moment. "What's important first of all is that the buildings are vacated; you can't start work before then anyway." Accordingly, it is not yet possible to give any specifics on the costs. The university buildings are owned by the Bau und Liegenschaftsbetrieb des Landes NRW (BLB) (Construction and Real Estate Services of the state of NRW), so the university is only a tenant. According to numbers from the University of Bonn from 2018, around 60 million euros in rent flow to the BLB annually.

The students and teachers have already moved out of the east wing of the main university building, which extends as far as the Alte Zoll. They are housed in new buildings on Brühler Strasse. The rector's office has also moved from Regina-Pacis-Weg to a former embassy building on Argelanderstrasse.

Tremendous need for work, and not just on fire protection

Although work has been going on in the main building for years, it was and is primarily improvements to fire protection that are needed to ensure that the buildings can remain usable until the start of the core renovation. Facade work has already been done on the towers of the main building, among other things. There is an enormous need for improvement not only in terms of fire protection, but also the complete plumbing system and technology, some of which dates back to the 1950s, has to be brought up to date. According to Archut, the top floor will probably even have to be completely demolished and rebuilt. "If there's a fire there, no firefighter will go in."

What is also clear is that all halls, practice rooms and offices are to be brought up to date in terms of today's research and teaching requirements. "In the future, we will no longer need such large lecture halls for lectures, but rather halls and rooms that can be used in a flexible manner," explains the press spokesperson. Independent work with a laptop and headset should be possible everywhere.

University wants to use distance learning for the future

Archut reflects on recent months: "The university will certainly be able to make good use of the experience gained during the pandemic with learning at a distance in the future. In any case, hybrid events are expected to play a major role. "That's also where we see great opportunities for better collaboration with our international partners."

It is still uncertain whether first- and second-semester students, most of whom have only been able to complete their studies via videoconferencing due to the pandemic, will be able to enter the main building for the first time in the winter semester, which would be before the planned closure. "At this point, we assume that at least the smaller courses will be able to be held in person again," Archut said. The university has always been very cautious about relaxing restrictions, he said. As a result, lectures with large numbers of participants would probably continue to be done via video. "We have to wait and see how the pandemic develops," the university spokesman said, referring to the increasing spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

(Orig. text: Lisa Inhoffen; Translation: ck)