C.A.R.L. – Research Campus by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Client: Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb NRW Aachen
Architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Location: Claßenstraße, 52072 Aachen (DE)
In terms of urban planning, C.A.R.L. stands at the intersection between the existing Mitte and West campuses. It is recessed from the line of buildings, thus creating a square that will motivate visitors to interact. The Central Auditorium for Research and Learning, which covers around 14,000 square metres, is devoted to interdisciplinary research. Eleven lecture theatres of various sizes, working spaces and communal areas offer room for more than 4,000 students.
From outside, the entire cubature is closed-off and massive – not least because of the conditions set by the spatial program for the building’s shell. The floor plan is rectangular and, at first sight, relatively unspectacular. The lecture theatres and other spaces are arranged here. The core of the structure is formed by a glazed atrium that seems to break up the two massive bodies with its airy, generous design. It functions as a transparent place of meeting and exchange.
The façade design is characterized by black panels which are lightened up by coloured accents. These outline the building’s levels on the exterior and structure its sleek geometry. The panels are arranged vertically and are shot through with narrow, coloured strips that break up the uniform appearance. However, they do not rise consistently, but echo the heights of the storeys. The atrium is entirely glazed, yet its narrow framework construction continues the structure of the closed-off perspectives. Above all, its transparent character becomes clearly visible in darkness, when it resembles a luminous body between the two massive volumes.
Right from the point that visitors enter the building, the imposing proportions of the complex open up. All the spaces are organized around the open middle section. While the two large auditoriums are found on the left, smaller lecture theatres and spaces are located along the right-hand side. The two staircases, which form an X, form the open access core. They structure the interior space and simultaneously bring all the levels of the building together. Combined with bridges and variously sized terraces, the result is a stacked spatial impression that gives the immense structure a certain light and playful character and invites visitors to stay a while. It reflects the architects’ intention with their design: to create a dynamic space for research and the exchange of knowledge.
While all the surfaces in the access area have been kept in light colours, the two stairways take up the black of the façade. The coloured accents are continued in the interior as well. The handrails in the lobby, the guidance and orientation system, the seating in the lecture theatre: again and again, colours break up the surfaces of exposed concrete and wood.