New Earth and Environmental Sciences building

16 Jul 2018

Climate change, natural disasters, scarcity of raw materials: the earth and environmental sciences search for answers to these challenges. A new building is being constructed on Schillerstrasse for the numerous teaching and research units in this field.

What is the current state of our supply of raw materials and energy? How is our climate developing? And what does it look like in the Earth’s interior? Some 500 students and 111 scientists in the earth and environmental sciences are working on these and other questions at LMU – dispersed over several locations in Munich. Starting in 2020, a new building will be constructed at Schillerstrasse 42, 44, and 46 for the five teaching and research units of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences – geology, paleontology & geobiology, mineralogy, crystallography, and geophysics. Bavarian Minister of Science, Professor Marion Kiechle, and President of LMU, Professor Bernd Huber, unveiled the plans for the new building.

The Bavarian state collections in the geosciences will also be housed on the campus. These collections offer valuable material for modern research – including artifacts from the 4.5-billion-year history of our solar system and planet, such as rare types of meteorites and fossils. “The new building grasps the unique opportunity to unite the earth and environmental sciences at LMU with the geoscience-oriented state collections,” explains Bavarian Minister of Science, Professor Marion Kiechle. The stewards of the collections are already working closely with the respective chairs at LMU, and having a shared location will reinforce these dynamics. This constellation, which is unique in Germany, will provide a strongly interdisciplinary setting for research and teaching so that top-level scientific insights about Planet Earth can be discovered and conveyed to students.

From elephant ancestors to an earthquake simulator

“With the new Earth and Environmental Sciences building, we’re taking another step forward in our creation of an LMU science campus at Sendlinger Tor,” notes President of LMU, Professor Bernd Huber. “Bringing the department together in a new, purpose-built facility creates outstanding conditions for geoscience research and teaching at the highest level.”

However, the new building will be more than just an ensemble of lecture halls and laboratories. As a “geosciences forum,” it will make the geosciences a vivid, tangible experience and showcase geoscientific work and current research topics – for visitors, but also for students and researchers. This will create an open and innovative place of encounters in the city center, where people can get a glimpse behind the scenes of modern research and study. This includes in particular interactive workshops, guided tours, special talks and lectures, exhibitions, and a contact point for information and the analysis of new geological finds, which are regularly discovered by ordinary citizens.

It is expected that demolition of the existing buildings and construction of the new facility can begin in the fall of 2019. Total building costs are estimated at 139.9 million euros. Professor Donald Bruce Dingwell, Director of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, explains: “We’re delighted the department is getting a new building that can accommodate us all. This will positively affect the conditions for research and teaching in this domain.”

Visual references to surroundings, clear structures

Back in November 2017, Munich State Building Authority 2 announced an architectural competition, which attracted entries from 111 offices from all over Europe. Now the prize jury has decided which of the submitted designs is to be made reality.

It was the urban building aspects of the design of Munich architect Ulrich Renger that most impressed the jury. The department will fit very deliberately into the heterogeneous context of the southern subdistrict between Goethestrasse, Pettenkoferstrasse, and Schillerstrasse.

The architect also managed, by simple means, to create allusions to the surrounding buildings and to develop a clearly defined overall complex for LMU’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Bavarian state collections, emphasized the prize jury. A clearly structured five-story courtyard arrangement with two interior courtyards, a slightly curved entrance façade, and a lecture hall and seminar room structure that breaks out of the ensemble provide for clarity, robustness, and long-term flexibility.

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