German higher education policy changed in the 1950s, which resulted in huge rise in student numbers. In 1960, the State of Lower Saxony held a competition for the design of new spaces for the academic life of about 5000 students attending the TU Braunschweig. Walter Henn emerged as the winner of the first prize with his solution for the spatial division of the functions into three independent buildings: a university refectory (1962), a students union building (1968/69) and a hall of residence (not built).
The refectory, which was erected in the first construction phase, opens on to the park-like surroundings of the disused St. Katharinen graveyard. The refectory's elongated single-storey volume stands in effective contrast to the mature trees. The use of only three materials – aluminium, steel and glass – on the eastern facade facing the park underlines the strong, reduced, functional articulation of the building and further emphasises the difference between the established and the new. Inside the refectory building, the space is subdivided into several dining rooms, not only to avoid the impression of mass catering, but also for functional reasons. The earlier functional analysis had shown that all the dining rooms and the associated kitchens should be on the same level. Therefore all the dining rooms are arranged around a large kitchen core with the two large rooms oriented towards the park having terraces in front of them to create a direct connection to the green space. The basement, a reinforced concrete skeletal construction, contains the changing rooms, ancillary rooms, a skittle alley and a table tennis room. The ground floor was constructed as a steel structure and consists of 16 trusses at 5-metre centres. They extend over two spans of 19.75 metres, with the kitchens and dining rooms kept free of all supports and loadbearing walls.
Photos: Heinrich Heidersberger