The Bavarian Ministry of Education and the Arts has announced plans to relocate the department of architecture of the Munich University of Applied Sciences from the city’s central art district – ‘Kunstareal’ – to a campus at Lothstrasse. If successful in these plans, the school of architecture – which dates back to the traditional ‘Staatsbauschule’ (state construction school) and is one of the oldest architecture schools of its kind in Germany –– would instantly be deprived not only of its cultural environment but its very identity.
As it currently stands, the architectural school forms a substantial part of the cultural character of Munich’s ‘Kunstareal’ art district; and over the last century its growth has been integral to the neighbourhood that surrounds it. For an architecture department to occupy the centre of a city is also of clear importance, so that the school can both draw upon and imagine the city around it. From the outset, its appropriateness as a school of architecture was largely determined by the layout of its rooms and courtyards, which in turn has fundamentally shaped the educational model it offers. A new building, in this sense, might be able to house a department but it could never support the same education. An equivalent assimilation between architecture and pedagogy operates at a larger scale in terms of the district as a whole, to the extent that the Karlstrasse continues to thrive as an area dedicated to education.
Significantly, the almost symbiotic connection between the architecture department and the Kunstareal is something that other institutions and residents of the area recognise. For example, the adjacent Munich Technical University, the Gallery of Architecture including its bookstore, and the Museum of Architecture have all grown into this site, in a form of dialogue with the architecture department. Its integration is also not restricted to architecture, for this discipline is merely one among many others, with all major museums, the Academy of Fine Arts, universities for film and music and a central institute for art history aggregating in and around this site. Individually, each of these institutions can be pinpointed to a specific building, but at the same time they represent a collective whole. Therefore, to dismantle any one part of this pedagogically, urbanistically, culturally and historically rich district would be to undermine the value of the whole.
Dismantling this existing structure, the Bavarian Ministry of Education and the Arts intends all three departments currently occupying the architecture school to move into a new building planned for the Lothstrasse campus. Detailed plans for this relocation have yet to be supplied, but the expectation is that the site will offer a reduced footprint to the existing school in a building of manifestly inferior quality.
But in addition to the obvious aesthetic and culture argument for the retention of the traditional school building, the continued use of the Karlstrasse site as a school of architecture also has a powerful ecological argument. Architects now are taught to operate in as ‘sustainable’ way as possible. Consequently, buildings today are designed according to more environmentally sensitive concerns. But the most sustainable of all architectures is one that remains. Maintaining an existing home will therefore always be more ecologically and economically convincing that building a new one. Of course, as a school of architecture, the building itself has nurtured precisely those people best able to ensure this continued occupancy. Indeed, the project of maintaining the building can even be absorbed into the school’s curriculum, perhaps as the best possible exposition of a school of ‘applied’ arts.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s many universities across Europe – and especially departments of art and architecture – were relocated from sites in historically rich and vibrant inner city areas to new outer campuses, largely in response to the student demonstrations that characterised this period. But in hindsight, this pattern of relocation can be seen to have devalued the historical buildings these schools once occupied, the urbane and cultivated qualities of their districts, and even affected the quality of education in the new campuses. Architecture, in particular, can be seen to have become marginalised as a result. Now, almost half a century later, there is the very real danger that Munich will repeat these same mistakes.
This petition to maintain the school of architecture in its current location in the Karlstrasse, is not simply a measure to protect one institution, but a bigger defence of the importance and relevance of architecture’s place within contemporary culture, and the vitality of the city itself.
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of architecture students, professors, staff and visiting scholars been drawn to the building of the Munich University of Applied Sciences in the Karlstrasse; and many more still recognise its importance for the district and the city as a whole. Therefore, please support our petition for the retention of the school in its current, and wonderful, home.
Im Namen aller Unterzeichner/innen.
80333, 10.07.2015 (aktiv bis 09.01.2016)