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Short Visit to Chemnitz University of Technology’s Future Library

Saxony's Minister of Finance Hartmut Vorjohann visited on 30 June 2020 to see the completed construction measures in the "Alte Aktienspinnerei"

It has been the largest and most expensive construction site in Chemnitz in recent years: The building know as the "Alte Aktienspinnerei" on the Straße der Nationen has been renovated and converted into the new University Library (UB) for Chemnitz University of Technology with great attention to detail starting in April 2014. The cost of around 53 million euros is being financed by the Free State of Saxony, 13.5 million euros is being financed by the European Union as ERDF funding. Saxony's Minister of Finance Hartmut Vorjohann, together with the head of the Chemnitz branch of the state-owned company Sächsisches Immobilien- und Baumanagement (SIB), Peter Voit, came to visit on 30 June 2020 in the presence of representatives of the University and the City of Chemnitz to see the construction measures that have now been completed.

The Minister of Finance, as the building owner, is pleased that the Free State of Saxony is able to put one of the most important industrial-historical buildings in the city of Chemnitz to a new use. For him, a central university library is the elementary component of studying and learning. Prof. Dr. Maximilian Eibl, Vice President for Academic and International Affairs at Chemnitz University of Technology, also emphasized the importance of the University Library: "The library is the heart of the university, where knowledge is stored, and an important place for meeting people.” "The aim is to accommodate the University Library, which is currently spread over three locations, and the University Archive in one place, which will also be easily accessible via the 'Chemnitz Model'," added Angela Malz, Director of the University Library.

In the renovated building, the university will have a learning and communication centre with over 700 workstations for all learning habits: from quiet individual workstations in the reading room and carrels to places in the learning and communication area for group work. There will also be a reading garden. The ground floor will be an attractive venue for events. The new university library is scheduled to open on 1 October 2020.

A building project of considerable dimensions

"The historic building of the Alte Aktienspinnerei originally consisted of a central five-story building with an ornamental crowning as well as two elongated four-story side wings with a gable roof and striking corner towers," reported Voit. Due to the conversion of the historic industrial building into a library, extensive adjustments to the inventory were necessary. The two side wings were largely preserved. The cubature as well as the façade design of the historic Aktienspinnerei were restored to their original form. The central building as well as the outer gable fields of the side wings were gutted and rebuilt with a modified internal structure that takes into account the new use by the library. An extension north of the central building now provides space for the magazine.

Under the project management of the SIB, Chemnitz branch, a total usable area of 12,354 square metres has been created in the building. Following the existing building structure, the open access areas of the library were arranged in the side wings of the building. The central part is occupied with central functions such as entrance hall, main access and reading room. The administration is accommodated on the gable sides in the east and west and in the central building.

Construction work began in April 2014 with the demolition of empty buildings around the main building. From October 2014, the side wings were cleared, freed of all fixtures and fittings and returned to their shell state. In the process, around 6,500 tons of construction waste was removed from the building, most of it by hand. The valuable cast-iron supporting structure with brick cap vaults was made visible again. In July 2015 the complete gutting of the central building began. Parallel to this, the outer walls were secured statically and then the excavation pit for the central building and the magazine annex was constructed. A total of 20,000 tons of demolition material was removed. The builders also had to cope with surprises. The extremely poor subsoil had to be reinforced and the ceiling structures had to be extensively renovated in places. A total of 330 steel windows were installed and about 185 kilometres of cable were laid.

38 kilometres of library and archive materials move house

Before the new university library can open, more than 1.2 million books and a large part of the extensive archives will have to move. "If all the media were to be set up one behind the other, this would result in a distance of 38 kilometers, which is longer than the distance between Chemnitz and Freiberg," says Malz. At the beginning of June, the move of the first magazine stocks of the two campus libraries and the Central Library to the rooms of the Alte Aktienspinnerei began. "This phase is expected to last until the beginning of August, and by the end of September all open access collections of the two campus libraries and the Central Library should also be transferred, so that these locations will gradually close down," reports the director of the University Library.

Currently, the last parts of the total of 22,000 shelf metres are being set up in the Alte Aktienspinnerei. Offices as well as the learning and communication areas, the information and lending area, the training and consultation rooms, and the offices of the employees are being further equipped with furniture and technology.

The opening hours of the future university library will be like this for several months: Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 24:00, and Saturday, 10:00 to 18:00. "From April 2021, we want to extend our opening hours and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This makes us the only library in Saxony whose entire collection is accessible around the clock," Malz says.

Aktienspinnerei in Chemnitz

The Aktienspinnerei spinning mill was established between 1857 and 1859 as a result of the foundation of a joint stock company as the largest spinning mill in Saxony at that time with 60,000 spindles. In contrast to earlier spinning mills, the architect Friedrich Theodor Roschig had planned the building entirely of iron and stone, mainly because of the risk of fire. The building was thus considered one of the most fire-safe in the city. The spinning mill operation ended in 1914 and the area became the property of the city of Chemnitz as early as 1905. During the Second World War, the building was severely damaged and lost its roof and top floor. Subsequently, the building was also used as a food serving area, a temporary home for the destroyed opera house, Wismut department store, municipal library, office building and puppet theatre and finally as a gallery. Since 2011 the building has been owned by the Free State of Saxony. In 2014 the conversion to the university library at Chemnitz University of Technology began.

(Author: Mario Steinebach / Translation: Chelsea Burris)

Mario Steinebach

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