Ehrenhof Ost Refurbished: New Rooms for Students and Staff in Schloss Wing

Ehrenhof Ost was a construction site for three years – a span of time that created real challenges for the university and its staff and students as ongoing work put many lecture halls, seminar rooms, and offices out of bounds and made it necessary to find alternatives. Since the fall semester, this wing of the Schloss has been open again. We have taken a look at the freshly refurbished rooms for FORUM.

It can barely be seen now that Ehrenhof Ost was a construction site. A film of dust still covers the paving slabs in the courtyard outside and there is still some construction equipment parked in the neighboring courtyard, Stiler Hof, and awaiting redeployment elsewhere. Café EO is still closed – its reopening is scheduled for summer 2024 – but in front of the café, we meet Lisa Mikus, who has been working in Division VI – Organization and Space Management for a year and a half now. Her role? Allocating suitable rooms to university staff. Offices, meeting rooms, and the university’s 150 lecture halls and seminar rooms all fall within the scope of her responsibilities. Since the end of August, she has also been managing the rooms in the Ehrenhof Ost wing again.

We step into the first floor of the building together. High walls gleam in bright white, and the smell of fresh paint is still noticeable. “There are six seminar rooms and three lecture halls here,” Mikus tells us. They are used by the School of Humanities, the School of Law and Economics, and the Business School. The door leading into lecture hall EO 165 stands ajar, and the room is aglow with soft light streaming in through large windows and illuminating its modern interior. Speakers and room microphones are located along the walls to ensure that hybrid teaching and events can take place here and events can be recorded. A large white table at the front of the room has many options for lecturers to configure the room’s technology to suit their requirements, and there is a huge whiteboard just behind it. Facing it, twelve rows of seats in harmonious white and beige tones invite students to come in and settle down for the tutorial on civil law that is just about to take place here.

Modern university studies and accessibility

Matthias Heitz, head of Division III – Facility Management, told us later that “the progress achieved in Ehrenhof Ost has not just been about visual improvements, but also about technical aspects,” and mentioned three aspects which were prioritized during the refurbishment: “fire safety, modern study facilities, and accessibility.” The rooms used for teaching are now equipped with the most modern technology in a range of configurations that include high-performance projectors, document cameras, and digital projectors. There are even microphone cubes for Q&A sessions. The lecture halls and three of the seminar rooms (EO 154, 169, 256) feature room microphones and autofocus cameras to enable hybrid teaching with some students in the room and others participating online from their home computers. The seminar rooms have been equipped with a large extra screen to facilitate smooth communication and interaction in these hybrid situations between the people on site and the remote attendees. And what about accessibility? “All the lecture halls are equipped with height-adjustable tables, have sufficient maneuvering space for wheelchair users, and feature infrared assistive listening technology to aid people with hearing loss,” Heitz reports. Braille script on the handrails of the staircases facilitates orientation for people with sight loss.

We are now back on the stairs with Lisa Mikus and go past the second floor, where there are two seminar rooms as well as offices belonging to the Center for SME Research and Entrepreneurship and multiple Business Administration professorships. A real surprise follows in the attic story: an open-plan space stretches out ahead of us with around 120 spaces for students to work spread across 95 square meters. From individual tables to cozy upholstered niches for teamwork – every detail here has been thought through. This place used to be a tangled jumble of building services technology and storerooms. “Today, it's a hotspot where students can just come and cram,” says Mikus as we return to our starting point and make our way out of the building. Looking across the courtyard, we see that construction fences are going up outside Ehrenhof West. In a few weeks, refurbishment work will get underway in the wing of the Schloss opposite us. As we say goodbye to Lisa Mikus, we think that we’ll be sure to return in three or four years – to marvel at the next generation of freshly refurbished lecture halls.

Text: Patrick Kullmann/December 2023