Technische Universität Berlin

Using the “Old” Mathematics Building as a Pilot for Praxis-Based Teaching

TU Berlin is developing the planned conversion of its “old “ Mathematics Building as a transdisciplinary process

First plans and ideas for a socially and ecologically sustainable campus were presented in February 2021 by students and teachers from Faculty III - Process Sciences, Faculty V - Mechanical Engineering and Transport Systems, and Faculty VI - Planning Building Environment.

Located directly opposite the Main Building on Straße des 17. Juni, the blue-red hybrid of glass house and factory highrise that is TU Berlin’s Mathematics Building attracts curious gazes. The designs were completed in 1967 and construction began in 1976 based on plans developed by architects Georg Kohlmaier and Barna von Sartory. Construction was completed in 1982. Distinctive features of the interior spaces include the exposed pipes, the striking ventilation pipes in the main lecture hall, dividing walls made of exposed concrete and the blue, yellow and red color-guided system. Technical fixtures appear in blue with the free-standing stairs in the foyer glowing deep red. The stairs are like a labyrinth. While the main staircase links all floors with each other, there are other staircases leading to certain floors only.

“In the middle of the last decade, the construction materials in the Mathematics Building began to show their age. Problems and deficiencies started to emerge,” explains TU Berlin’s acting vice president for administration Lars Oeverdieck. “A new Mathematics Building is now being built on the east campus to reflect current requirements. We are also looking to develop a convincing concept for the future use of the current Mathematics Building on Straße des 17. Juni to reflect the importance of sustainability for TU Berlin.

Integrating sustainability in all processes

The goal is to renovate the building as quickly as possible and return it to operation. In October 2020, TU Berlin initiated a dialog and consultation process to discuss the options for modernizing the building. Professor Dr.-Ing. Christine Ahrend, vice president for research, appointment strategy, knowledge & technology transfer at TU Berlin relishes the prospect: “Students, teachers and non-university partner institutions are discussing and developing interdisciplinary ideas for modernization and innovative designs. Our university enjoys a rich and broad range of expertise and creativity in the area of constructive design and climate-adaptive architecture.”

“We want to include a pilot project for praxis-based courses in our plans for the conversion of the Mathematics Building. We are looking to actively discuss this with local organizations and people living and working in Charlottenburg. We want Berliners to become involved in TU Berlin and strengthen the presence of our university in society,” says Professor Dr. Hans-Ulrich Heiß, vice president for education, digitalization, and sustainability at TU Berlin. Professor Heiß is also an advocate of “sustainability by design:” “We need to see sustainability as an integral part of all our processes and not as an add-on. If it proves successful, the conversion of the old Mathematics Building could serve as a climate-friendly model for our redevelopment plans in the near and more distant future.”

Fit for the future

In October 2020, representatives from the Natural Building Lab and the Chair of Vegetation Technique and Planting Design were among those taking part in a joint review of the Mathematics Building. Colloquia were held in early December and mid-February 2021 on the future of the building, with a further session planned for the end of April or early May. A pop-up exhibition is scheduled for the end of 2021 to present the results of these colloquia to Charlottenburgers and other interested Berliners.

“We are also looking to achieve a low emission conversion of the existing building. At the same time, we need to think about the working worlds of tomorrow to create a building which is ultimately fit for the future,” says Dr. Thorsten Philipp, advisor on transdisciplinary teaching to the Executive Board at TU Berlin.

Models for green, health-promoting learning landscapes using renewable energies

Teachers and students have developed a range of designs, which they presented in a colloquium in mid-February. Professor Dr. Norbert Kühn and Daniela Corduan of the Chair of Vegetation Technique and Planting Design (Faculty VI Planning Building Environment) considered the possibility of green utopias for the Mathematics Building: How can vegetation and technology be combined? What is thinkable? What is possible? Plants are not just for decoration, they need to be incorporated into the concept. For example, as places where people, plants and insects can come together on the roof. Professor Claus Steffan and Marta Carrero Gras from the Institute of Architecture’s Chair of Building Engineering and Design (Faculty VI) presented their idea for a “mathemorphosis” to create a carbon-free campus. They discussed a number of approaches to include accessibility, such as a greened ramp located within a type of greenhouse.

Selina Schlez and Magdalena Böttcher from the Institute of Architecture’s Natural Building Lab (NLB) master’s thesis class (Faculty VI) developed their ideas on the principles of post-fossil ecological and ethical sustainability taking account of social responsibility. At the end of January 2021, students from the Natural Building Lab also invited Georg Kohlmaier, the architect of the Mathematics Building, to discuss ideas with them. Dipl.-Ing. Susanne Lutz of the Chair of Integrated Transport Planning at Faculty V - Mechanical Engineering and Transport Systems advocates the adoption of the UN’s Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion and the Okanagan Charter for Health Promoting Universities & Colleges. For example, how can existing structures be used to create sustainable mobility? Is it possible to introduce urban gardening on the campus?

It is becoming increasingly fascinating to see what the building will look like in the future.


Author: Christina Camier

Further information

Details of consultation processes will be published on TU Berlin’s transdisciplinary education website.



Thorsten Philipp

Transdisciplinary Teaching

+49 (0)30 314-29835

Organization name Office of the Vice President for Education, Digitalization, and Sustainability