Diocesan Chancery

Midsize. Middle of the city.

Typology Office Constructed volume GFA 5200 m², GIV 21,390 m³ Client Bistum Aachen Architect kadawittfeldarchitektur Completion 2016–2019 Competition 1st prize 2015


# Refurbishment and rearrangement of the Diocesan Chancery in Aachen

Alongside the energy efficiency upgrade of the outdated building structure, the facade of the Chancery has been redesigned to create a distinct unit that is perceived as a “place of the church”.

Photo Andreas Horsky

Dating back to the late 1950s, the Diocesan Chancery close to Aachen’s cathedral was in desperate need of an upgrade and refurbishment. Thanks to the rearrangement of offices and the new facade design, it was possible to upgrade the structure to meet current energy standards as well as retain the original appearance of the complex.  The new facade responds to the special characteristics of the location and blends into the cathedral complex.
A line of columns surrounds the ground floor and completes the previously undefined appearance of the wing facing the square Klosterplatz as a colonnade. Due to the columns’ use of gently shimmering, light bronze-coloured aluminium panels, matching the light natural stone of the plinth, the colonnades are clearly visible as a contemporary addition. The main focus of the refurbishment measures was the careful approach to the existing building stock and a sparing use of resources. The amount of primary energy required could be reduced by retaining a large proportion of the existing stock. As a result, the stipulated energy consumption not only for refurbishments but also for new buildings was clearly undercut.

The interplay of columns and courtyards creates a new attractive entrance facing the square Klosterplatz. The two-storey entrance area features a café that protrudes into the courtyard with a terrace and seating steps.

Situation before the refurbishment
Photo Andreas Horsky

The new facade is not only highly efficient in terms of climate technology but also functions as a unifying element underlining the ecclesiastical character of the building. Instead of the formerly diffuse relationship between the building components, the design now uses double-storey pilasters to connect the two lower levels in accordance with the structural framework. Light sandstone emphasises the vertical elements, whereas the dark granite in between causes the window parapets to stand back. The result is a generous base, which connects the two wings and extends along the formerly open courtyards as colonnades. They almost appear like two L-shaped tables and relate to the renovated raised roof of the tower as well as the canopy roof protecting the entrance to the cathedral information centre, which was renewed by Hahn Helten Architektur in 2011.

South elevation
Photo Andreas Horsky

The natural stone cladding was produced using a Jurassic limestone from a Central European quarry.

Photo Andreas Horsky

The change of material from stone to bronze-coloured aluminium is hardly perceived; the rhythm of the pillars increases just sufficiently to mark the entrance to the courtyards. Whereas the pergola roof provides a covered connection between buildings in the western courtyard, the forecourt is transformed into a space similar to that of a cloistered courtyard, creating a very clear boundary to the adjoining urban square.

Ground floor plan
Photo Andreas Horsky

The forecourt, surrounded by a few tiers of stepped seating, is designed as a quiet retreat but also as a venue for events.

Photo Andreas Horsky

The only other change was made in the entrance area by adding a two-storey fully glazed extension. The light space of the café draws the courtyard atmosphere into the building and initiates the rearrangement of spatial relations inside. One important element is the new central meeting space on the first floor with a visual link to the entrance area below.

Photo Andreas Horsky

The chapel has been repositioned just to the left of the main entrance. Whereas a relief stone carving marks the ecclesiastical function in the courtyard facade outside, small narrow windows, natural stone and a protective wall made of solid timber create a sacred space inside. A wooden sculpture of Virgin Mary with Child from the 15th century forms the spiritual contemplative centre according to a concept designed by Michael Scholz, architect of the Diocese of Aachen.

Christa Reicher, Professor for Urban Design and Chair of Aachen’s Architectural Advisory Board, in an interview about the potentials of Aachen and the relationship between architecture and the city: in Newspaper No. 20 ‘MIDSIZE’.

Location in the immediate vicinity of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aachen Cathedral
Panoramic view of Aachen from the terrace just below the tower’s raised roof | Photo Andreas Horsky