The research building CARL (Center for Ageing, Reliability and Lifetime Prediction of Electrochemical and Power Electronic Systems) with its 6-storey head building forms the new entrance to the Science Campus Melaten of RWTH Aachen University. Here, 160 employees of the ISEA institute will in future research questions on the ageing, lifetime and reliability of power electronics and batteries with a view of an adjacent nature reserve.


Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb NRW (BLB)

User: ISEA RWTH Aachen

Competition procedure:

Aug 17

Prof. Johannes Kister

Project team:
Danijela Pilic (pm)
Roxana Varga (deputy pm)
Tanja Scharbert
Nicole Köllmann
Katharina Diedrichs
Dorothee Heidrich

Photos: Yohan Zerdoun

Urban design
CARL is part of a new cluster development adjacent to the Campus Boulevard – a frequented circuit around the Campus Melaten. The development plan specifies that the building follows the curved building line along the boulevard. The building was elevated in the area of the pointed north-east corner and the parapet line, which slopes down from this corner in all directions – and is partly curved – emphasises the prominent position of the CARL as a cluster prelude. The building volume slopes downwards towards the countryside.

In order to dynamically follow the curvature of the street, the architects chose bricks and thus refer to the materiality of historical electricity plants. The sustainable brick also symbolises the sustainable aspect of research and allows the building to be appropriately addressed on the campus. While the façade is adapted to the curve of the boulevard, the architectural detailing of the windows with rhythmically indented surfaces emphasises the dynamics of the brick façade without having to transfer the curvatures to the glass. Passing or driving viewers look through expansive window fronts onto the foyer with adjoining conference rooms and into the offices on the upper floors.

Internal structure
CARL consists of three separate building sections with the main building on the campus boulevard, a massive three-storey middle section with critical testing laboratories and a roofed hall with interchangeable room cells. The main building, a compact structure without an inner courtyard, is accessed by a presentable main staircase that plays with curved lines and sculpturality, but also meets all the requirements for the necessary staircase space. Daylight is brought into the deep parts of the building through the large overhead light, which is located above the entire stairwell.

Open and social spaces
The central building and the open hall, which is covered with a steel structure, enclose a service yard that is accessed from the north, so that a communicative and green pedestrian magistrale, including seating, could be created to the south of the building.
On the third floor, a roof terrace with a view of the nature reserve was realised, which directly connects to the library. It is intended to serve not only as a library, but also as a central academic exchange point in the building. In addition, there are social areas on each floor.

The pedestrian promenade will connect CARL and the other planned building on Research Cluster F as the future cluster centre. Employees can sit down and exchange ideas on benches surrounded by green islands. Works by the Cologne artist Jan Hoeft decorate the walls of the room cells facing the Magistrale and depict the processes of research on oversized signs. At the head of the staircase, a green roof terrace serves as a meeting place and relaxation area for CARL staff.