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5 April 2007

University of Heidelberg Takes Possession of the New BIOQUANT Life Science Centre

New building for quantitative and qualitative analysis of molecular and cellular biosystems — Media cordially invited to attend inauguration ceremony with minister president Günther H. Oettinger and finance minister Gerhard Stratthaus on 19 April 2007

On 19 April 2007 the state of Baden-Württemberg, represented by minister president Günther H. Oettinger and finance minister Gerhard Stratthaus, will be formally conferring possession of the new BIOQUANT life science centre on the University of Heidelberg. At a time when the University is further enhancing its outstanding profile in the life sciences and at the same time jockeying for position in the Initiative for Excellence contest organised by the Federal and state governments, this new building for the quantitative and qualitative analysis of molecular and cellular biosystems is of crucial and far-reaching strategic significance.

The finance ministry of Baden-Württemberg and the University of Heidelberg's Construction Department extend a cordial invitation to the media to attend the inauguration ceremony at which Baden-Württemberg's premier Günther Oettinger and finance minister Gerhard Stratthaus will be formally handing over possession of the building to the University (3 p.m., Thursday, 19 April 2007, Im Neuenheimer Feld 267, 69120 Heidelberg). After addresses by the two politicians there will be speeches of welcome from University Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, Heidelberg's deputy CEO Prof. Dr. Raban von der Malsburg and the founding director of BIOQUANT Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wolfrum.


The site of the new BIOQUANT building lies to the west of the Neuenheim district of Heidelberg in the heart of the "Im Neuenheimer Feld" University campus. Its immediate neighbours are the lecture-hall building of the Institutes of Chemistry to the north, the Institutes of Zoology and Environmental Physics to the east and the cluster formed by the Institutes of Chemistry to the west. On the southern side BIOQUANT borders on the east-west transit axis of the campus. On the opposite side of the road the existing Kirchhoff Institute is soon to be joined by the buildings representing the second and third planning stages for the Institutes of Physics.

Campus history

The BIOQUANT research building fills one of the few gaps still remaining in the north-east sector of the campus. After the interruption caused by the war it was here that construction work for the University resumed in the early 1950s with the new buildings for the Institutes of Chemistry. This was followed in the 1960s by the Institute of Mathematics, the Computer Centre and the striking contemporary buildings housing the Institutes of Zoology, Mineralogy and Geology. Between 1996 and 1999 a new building for the Institute of Environmental Physics was approved in the framework of a special construction programme.

Planning and design

In 2002 the University Construction Department began with its project for a new building housing the BIOQUANT research network on the basis of an interdisciplinary list of requirements elaborated by the relevant departments of the University. After consultation with the Chamber of Architects a semi-open competition for the realisation of the project was organised in which 28 participants submitted their proposals. The awarding committee opted unanimously for the proposal made by the Heidelberg-born architect Volker Staab. Subsequently Staab Architekten BDA, Berlin plus a number of specialist engineers received the commission to continue with the planning of the project.

The location selected for the new BIOQUANT building is one of the most atmospheric and congenial sites on the campus, a park-scape located between the Institutes of Mineralogy, Geology and Zoology, the lecture-hall building of the Institutes of Chemistry and the Institutes of Chemistry themselves. The quality of this site is significantly enhanced by the combination of vertical structures and flat, one-storey buildings, leaving the spatial dominance of the trees and the park-like expanses largely unaffected. This principle of combining vertical and horizontal structures has also been adopted for the new BIOQUANT building, thus ensuring that it fits in with the neighbouring buildings and also reflects the functional requirements of the overall campus design.

The rooms dedicated to continuing education and communication are located in the one-storey buildings extending out to the south and west. With its integrated garden courtyards and extensive lobby areas the building provides a pleasant working atmosphere and adequate opportunity and space for informal communication.

Communication and functionality were the key criteria in the original proposal and these properties are fully reflected in the architecture of the main high-rise structure of the Centre. The interdisciplinary links between the life science research labs and the Centre for Scientific Computing are mirrored in the central access and communication area. Two structures, a laboratory building and an office building, are placed next to one another and connected by a joint sculptural stair-tower with integrated encounter areas. All walkways and lifts converge on this space, thus guiding users of the building to the communication areas, some of which are open while others can be separated off, and encouraging mutual exchange. This stair-well connecting all the levels of the building is the heart of the Centre. On the 7th storey it leads to a conference room with a terrace commanding a superb view of the campus and the city beyond. Christoph T. Hunziker's light sculpture Bi0quant extends through all 7 storeys and underlines the significance of this zone.

The striking façade of the building is notable for the jutting and receding window elements and the metal sun-protection blades that, together with the metal breastwork, form the glimmering "skin" of the building.

Significance for University and region

The BIOQUANT interdisciplinary research network dovetails two firmly established and internationally renowned strong-points of scientific achievement at the University of Heidelberg — molecular biology/biomedical research and expertise in scientific computing. The project is designed to promote the interaction between the experimental life sciences and scientific computing. In future the traditional trial-and-error method will not be sufficient to cope with immense diversity of living phenomena. The aim is to use new strategies to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the complexity of life in all its forms.

BIOQUANT reinforces not only interdisciplinary research in the University itself but also the numerous close links existing with non-university research institutions in the region. Different forms of cooperation between industry and the University have already been instituted and a number of industrial partners are already collaborating with University research groups in the BIOQUANT network. Different industries are given the opportunity of testing their products in a front-edge research environment and developing them further in conjunction with staff members of the University. In return, University scientists can teach and engage in research under ideal conditions. Communication skills and greater understanding for the viability of different approaches will be enhanced by mutual contact.

Roland Wenk/MS

State of Baden-Württemberg, represented by
Landesbetrieb Vermögen und Bau Baden-Württemberg;
University of Heidelberg Construction Department

University of Heidelberg
BIOQUANT Research Network Heidelberg

Project data

Usable space 5,305 m2
Main usable space 4,883 m2
Enclosed area 38,497 m3
Total cost € 24,200,400


Architects' competition October 2002
Building started June 2004
Foundations laid 8 October 2004
Topping-out 21 July 2005
Building completed March 2007
Opening ceremony 19 April 2007

Please address any inquiries to:
Roland Wenk
University of Heidelberg Construction Department

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Irene Thewalt
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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