Kiel University’s buildings

The first university building, 1665

When it was founded on 5 October 1665, the Christiana Albertina was still situated in the rooms of the former Franciscan monastery at the edge of Kiel’s Old Town. The four newly-founded faculties of Theology, Law, Medicine and the Fine Arts found their way into this building, which was already weakened by age. Three auditoriums housing the faculties surrounded a central courtyard. However, these already proved inadequate at the start of the 18th century. Persistent complaints about the structure’s poor condition led to extensive reconstruction in 1711, and further plans to expand followed on from this. These were discarded, however, in favour of a completely new location for the university. As early as 1669, Kiel’s first Botanical Garden was established as a “hortus medicus” in the castle grounds (Schlossgarten).

City map showing the Franciscan monastery
From: Cäsa Gramm: Chilonium novus Holsatiae Parnassus, 1665.

Move to Kattenstraße in 1768

Kollegiengebäude von Sonnin

The move to the grounds of Kiel's Castle was to characterise the university’s history for almost two centuries. In 1767/68, Ernst Georg Sonnin erected a two-storey brick building at the foot of the castle. With two lecture halls on the ground floor, a library, an archive, a conference room for the committees and a “Theatrum Anatomicum”, the new building fulfilled all the requirements of modern university operation at the time. There was even a so-called “Karzer”, the university’s own detention room. Despite this extensive new construction, the university was forced to use rooms in the castle more and more, as early as 1769, which meant that the castle’s chapel was used by the Theology department for preaching exercises and the castle’s kitchen building was completely taken over by the Institute of Chemistry.

Kiel University during the Wilhelmine construction phase

The university building in 1876

At the time of its 200th anniversary in 1865, the university and its institutes were already spread across the whole city. This was growing very rapidly, due to the relocation of the Prussian marine base on the Baltic from Gdansk to Kiel. The fast increase in the number of students meant that the university needed to expand its buildings at a new, central location. So King Frederick VII made the building site in the castle garden available in 1863. This project was not implemented until after the Prussian annexation by German Emperor William I, due to the German-Danish war and a lack of financing. The construction contract was awarded to the architects from Berlin, Martin Gropius and Heino Schmieden, and the foundation stone was laid and celebrated in 1873 in the presence of the Crown Prince. The new collegiate building was finally inaugurated in 1876. Once completed, Kiel University’s Wilhelmine collegiate building was admired across Germany for its exposed urban location, in a park on the banks of the Baltic Sea, and gained architectural approval throughout the country.

wilhelminisches Kollegiengebäude
The new Kunsthalle Kiel

At the beginning of the 20th century, the new building of the Kunsthalle (art gallery) was of great public interest. This new building was made possible in 1903 by the fact that Lotte Hegewisch, daughter of the Professor of Medicine Hegewisch, gave the plot on Düsternbrooker Straße as a gift. The Kunsthalle was to provide the collections of the art association and the university’s Institute of Art History with a new home as from 1909, and it was created according to plans by architect Georg Lohr in a mixture of Neo-baroque and Jugendstil styles.

The Seeburg
The Seeburg

The Seeburg student residence was the last university building from the imperial era. It was inaugurated in 1910 as a recreation area for students, by the Rector of Kiel University, Prof. Dr Götz Martius. It had reading rooms and separate dining halls for students and professors on the ground floor. The top floor had a ballroom and club, billiard and music rooms. A double skittle alley was built in 1913 for sporting activities, and there were numerous rowing and sailing boats in the basement for water sports. The Seeburg and the Kunsthalle can be regarded as the finale of the university’s Wilhelmine construction programme, and they once again emphasise the distinctive appearance of university architecture from the Prussian era, which was strongly characterised by the importance of Kiel as a naval location.

The university and its locations after World War II

After the end of World War II, rebuilding Kiel University became the city’s top priority, as the university had lost 60% of its buildings. A new university was to be created, in addition to the old university in the city with its focus on medicine. The former ELAC Werke on Ravensberg quickly came into consideration, partially as a result of the pure need for a sufficient amount and number of rooms. These were thought suitable for use by the university in several ways. On the one hand, the whole building had a solid skeleton construction which was particularly good for building classrooms and labs for the natural sciences. On the other hand, the statics designed for the arms industry allowed the accommodation of libraries and offered options for adding further storeys. And so the planned blasting was prevented by special permission from the British military government to use the buildings for teaching purposes and the Elac Werke was established as the new university location for the Natural Sciences and Humanities, Law and Sports. This new beginning was to be expressed in the university’s other architecture.

Das alte Gebäude der ELAC
Das Tor der alten ELAC

The university extends along Olshausenstraße

The further development of Kiel University’s buildings came at the end of the 1960s, during a Germany-wide phase of large-scale university expansions and new formations, as a result of massively increasing numbers of students and differentiation of subjects. The expansion of Kiel University to the south of Olshausenstraße with its first new buildings occurred in accordance with the so-called Hammer-Plan, named after the Rector of the university, Heinrich Hammer. The plans for the university tower building were to be the start of modern, technically progressive building architecture on the university campus. The fifteen storey administration tower, which was built between 1960 and 1964 became the new university’s visible landmark.

Das Unihochhaus
Photo: Jürgen Haacks / Kiel University

The entire complex of the university forum was intended as a relaxed grouping of individual, solitary architectural buildings supplemented by generous open spaces. The open nature of the concept enabled different styles and forms to be placed adjacently to each other.

View on the university forum class=
Photo: Klaas Ole Kürtz (CC BY-SA 2.5)
View on Mensa I
Photo: Jürgen Haacks / Kiel University

The student residence represented a decisive part of the new forum. This was an Anglo-American import which - in contrast to traditional student halls like the Seeburg - was understood to be a place of upbringing and strengthening the students’ sense of community. It was built between 1963 and 1966 by Wilhelm Kramer and provided students with lots of possibilities for use, with its integrated studio stage, for example.

The central lecture hall building was also integrated into the university forum’s ensemble. Despite criticism, the auditorium was not reconstructed on its historical site in the city as a central place of representative significance and ballroom for the university. Instead, the Auditorium Maximum (which took on the traditional role of an auditorium at many German universities in the post-war period) was placed on the new campus grounds. From 1965 to 1969, it was constructed according to Wilhelm Neveling's design and its hexagonal sculptural shape forms the centre of the university forum.

The Auditorium Maximum of Kiel University
Photo: Jürgen Haacks / Kiel University

The forum’s architectural diversity is also complemented by the University Chapel and the Central Library. Both the Chapel, built in 1965 from designs by Eiermann-Schüler Weidling and Kettner, as well as the Central Library, built from 1960 to 1966 by Günter Schween, symbolise an opening to the public because both buildings can be used by non-university groups.

University Church
Foto: Jürgen Haacks / Kiel University
Old University Library at Westring
Photo: Jürgen Haacks / Kiel University

The continual rise in numbers of students meant that providing large-scale, time-saving and cost-effective new rooms became necessary in the 1960s. This took place in 1962 in the form of the so-called Angerbauten which, at that time, symbolised modern building by using new manufacturing procedures, new cladding methods and standardised components. The Landesbauamt Kiel II and the architects Ernst Stoffers and Otto Schnittger were responsible for planning and finalisation. According to the university Rector, Erich Schneider, the Angerbauten were to underline Kiel’s objective of becoming one of Europe’s most modern universities.

Photo: Jürgen Haacks / Kiel University

Author: Karen Bruhn