Waters run dry: Renovation of LMU fountains

9 May 2023

The building works to restore the two LMU landmarks on Geschwister-Scholl-Platz and Professor-Huber-Platz are due to last until October.

Taking photos in front of the fountains with friends and family, relaxing in the sun against a backdrop of meditative splashing – these typical summer scenes will have to take a hiatus this year: The iconic fountains on Geschwister-Scholl-Platz and Professor-Huber-Platz have temporarily ceased to bubble. Indeed, they can no longer even be seen, surrounded as they are by scaffolding and building works.

Work is to continue until October on replacing the aging pipework and repainting the basins. “The pipes are completely rusted, and a centimeter-thick layer of limescale has built up in them over the decades,” explains Dr. Matthias Fahrmeir, Head of the Division of Property and Maintenance at LMU. Moreover, the pumps of the circulation system, which were fitted during the most recent renovation in the 1950s, need replacing.

Before the introduction of the circulation system, the two fountains were supplied by a wellhouse near the Haus der Kunst building up until the Second World War. There was even, notes Fahrmeir, a fountain caretaker, who was responsible for the smooth operation of the facility. But during the war, this system ceased to work, partly because it was no longer possible to regularly clean the bed of the feeding river from silt and garbage. Finally, the well house was destroyed.

The waters remained dry for the next few years, presumably because reconstruction of the main building took precedence.

  1. Studierende sitzem auf der Wiese vor dem Brunnen am Geschwister-Scholl-Platz.
  2. Ein Arbeiter reinigt mit einem Hochdruckreiniger das Brunnenbecken von außen

Chill in the sun in front of the bubbling fountain? You will have to do without the fountains this summer.

© Jan Greune (LMU)

Against a desolate backdrop: The fountain on today's Geschwister-Scholl-Platz in the 1950s.


The fountains will be scaffolded for the upcoming renovation.


The fountains – completely scaffolded


Before the renovation work can begin, the wells must first be thoroughly cleaned.


Rust and centimeter-thick lime deposits have affected the well pipes

Donated by a king

The fountains go back to King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who in the middle of the 19th century was deeply engaged in the planning and construction of “his” university. Inspired by Rome, he initially wanted a single fountain on the central axis of Ludwigstraße. Finally, he was persuaded to build two fountains by the proposal of architect Friedrich Gärtner, so that the grand boulevard would not terminate in another central monument in addition to the Victory Gate. While LMU had to pay for its main building itself, the king donated the fountains from his own coffers – the so-called civil list, which funded his private expenditure.

Incidentally, this is also the reason why LMU is responsible for the fountains and not the municipal government of Munich, on whose lands they are built. “In 1848, the king gifted the fountains to the state, probably because he realized that ownership of them was associated with certain maintenance costs,” conjectures Fahrmeir.

Such a legal construct, whereby some buildings could stand on someone else’s land by virtue of the concept of “Platzrecht,” would be inconceivable since the introduction of the German Civil Code in 1900.

As of now: clear responsibilities

Nevertheless, responsibility for the fountains would remain unclear for a long time. Even right up until the start of the latest renovation works, the municipal authorities in Munich looked after maintenance of the lighting. In future, the division led by Matthias Fahrmeir – and thus LMU – will be responsible for this task. The expense should not be too onerous, however, as energy-saving, long-lasting LED lighting will be installed. Naturally, this will be done in line with best practice for the preservation of historical monuments. As of this year, moreover, the fountains will have a “winter hat” – a cover to protect them from snow and frost.

The renovation of the two fountains will cost 1.8 million euros – an investment that will definitely be worth it. After all, the two water features are iconic structures at LMU and no doubt the most photographed objects at the university.

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