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New Building for Small Departments

Freie Universität Berlin Opens New Building with Integrated Library

The largest construction project that Freie Universität Berlin has implemented itself, the new building housing numerous small academic departments was completed on time for the beginning of the summer semester, only two and a half years after the foundation stone was laid. It is an extension of the university's largest complex up to now for housing the social sciences and humanities subjects. Costing approximately 52 million euros, the new building houses 14 separate disciplines that are subdepartments of the Department of History and Cultural Studies as well as a library made up of the departmental libraries of 24 institutes and subdepartments including mathematics and science disciplines. The building is located on Fabeck Street at the center of the Dahlem campus. It was designed by the award-winning, Munich-based architect Florian Nagler.

"The new building will play an important role in linking various subdepartments of the university and will greatly facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation," says the president of the university, Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt. After the smaller departments have completed the move to the new building, the university plans to give up eleven of the villas that are scattered across the campus and up to now have housed smaller institutes and subdepartments. Some of the villas will be sold to help Freie Univesität meet its obligations in contributing to financing the new building. Of the approximately 52 million euros it cost to construct the building, Freie Universität will cover 33.5 million euros, while the German federal government will contribute 18.5 million euros as a means of promoting the integration of research. The university's Director of Administration and Finance, Peter Lange, noted that the university not only completed the construction work according to schedule, but also within the allotted budget.

The Department of History and Cultural Studies at Freie Universität Berlin covers a broader range of subjects than any other university in Germany. The time periods covered range from antiquity to modern times and geographically from Europe to Asia. The 14 subdepartments that moved into the new building include Iranian studies, Turkic studies, Jewish studies, Islamic studies, Korean studies, prehistoric archaeology, and ancient Near Eastern languages and civilizations. The disciplines are clustered in four major areas: antiquity, the Middle East, East Asia, and religion. "Various institutes dealing with subjects that are closely related are now physically close to each other and share common space for teaching and research in the central library," says Prof. Dr. Karin Gludovatz, the dean of the Department of History and Cultural Studies. This facilitates academic exchange among researchers and students. The students often have various combinations of majors and minors in these subjects and previously had to cover great distances to attend class and use the separate libraries. The new proximity will help them save time and improve their conditions for studying and learning.

Another advantage is that students and researchers will have access to the entire library holdings in one central location. The libraries of the various institutes that were previously housed in the separate villas are now consolidated in the new Campus Library. Structurally it is connected to the fully renovated departmental library of the Department of Education and Psychology, whose holdings are now integrated in the Campus Library. Altogether the holdings of 24 separate departmental libraries, including five disciplines from math and science, were consolidated in the Campus Library.

During the past months a total of 30 kilometers of books were moved. More than a million books are now available for users in the Campus Library. In addition to group work spaces, there are 950 individual spaces for reading and work. "The new Campus Library is not only intended to bring together books, but also people," says the director of the library, Martin Lee. To expedite the check-out process, each book is equipped with a chip for a self-checkout system, in the hope that long lines at the check-out desk can be avoided. A unified classification system called Regensburger Classification facilitates orientation for users in the open stacks, which is particularly useful for cross-disciplinary research.

In addition to the library, the new building has 220 offices and working rooms for researchers, 12 seminar rooms, and 3 lecture halls. The architecture of the one- to three-story building extending around landscaped courtyards is an extension of the existing structure. The façade is paneled with cedar. Many public areas provide opportunities for communication. "In between there are small-scale units, where each institute can develop its own identity," says architect Florian Nagler and continues, “The institutes that were previously housed in separate villas will not disappear in a uniform, faceless megastructure.”

The new building is fully accessible and complies with the latest environmental standards. "The natural ventilation of the building is a special energy-efficient feature," says Uwe Meising, the head of the Engineering and Utilities Division at Freie Universität. Weather louvres in the offices make it advantageous to leave windows open overnight, so that the cool night air can be used for ventilation. The windows in the library can be opened by an electric motor for night cooling, and the heated air can flow out through opening wings in the skylights. The ventilation system is controlled by wind and rain sensors dependent on the outdoor and indoor temperatures. A newly designed plaza in front of the entrance on Fabeck Street is welcoming for students and staff, offering them an opportunity to linger under the ornamental cherry trees.

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