Five colorful Arms on the Campus Hill

Five colorful Arms on the Campus Hill

Seltersberg Biomedical Research Center

Five arms and colorful scales – The biomedical research center in Giessen looks like a sea animal, washed onto the campus hill.

The new building of Seltersberg Biomedical Research Institute of  Justus-Liebig University in Giessen was advertized in 2003 in a three-staged architectural completion. Behles & Jochimsen Architekten BDA have won and were able to start planning in 2005. In 2011, it was completed under the project management of WSP/CBP Consulting Engineers.

5 Building Wings and 32 Colors

The research center is located at the heart of the university premises. Due to its unusual architecture and coloring it has turned into the campus’ figurehead. Despite its exposed location the biomedical research institute integrates itself into the cityscape in a harmonious way. Five building wings of various lengths stretch out into different directions from an atrium. They are held together by façade elements in 32 shades of color.

Flexible Limits

Once you enter the research institute you will find yourself in a central hall, connecting both main entrances with each other and roofed by an atrium. This hall also serves as a connector between the five building arms. The fifth arm is accessed by another entrance which also serves as a pedestrian passage between the campus and the city.

From the central hall hallways lead to the auditoriums, the labs and to the cafeteria. Eight different institutes are spread across the five wings. Despite clear dividing lines flexibility and communication were a main concern during the planning stage. The star-shaped layout enables short distances between the institutes; bridges across the atrium as well as a central staircase support communication. Also from a structural point of view the limits of the institutes vary. Across the whole building, labs and offices are based on the same room module, allowing easy changes of the room layout.

Technology as a Design Element

The distribution of the research institute onto the various building parts and institutes is promoted by the coloring of the interior. The core of each building arm is painted in monochrome colors, colorful wall facings can be found in the lobbies. This way the students are supposed to find their way easier inside the building. The remaining surfaces of the interior are held plainly. Here, material colors of concrete and metal along with white color dominate. The plain materials and coloring emphasize the technical character of the building. Matching this idea, the installation in almost all building parts are visible and are not covered by suspended ceiling. This way the building services have become a design element.

Colorful Scale Skin

A façade of level high pre-fabricated concrete elements arranged towards each other in a staggered manner encases the building.By positioning the façade panels at different angles towards each other the architects were able to realize curves at the façade, letting the building appear harmonious and almost organic.

On the outside, the building arms are separated from each other through color. The windows of the individual façade elements have been encased with colorful aluminum sheet metal. Each building part has its own color range. This results in the colors red, blue, green, yellow and orange the building arms are held in taking turns. All in all 32 different color shades have been deployed. Apart from the vertical orientation of the façade panels, a horizontal component in the façade between neighboring façade parts has been created through differences in color. 

The façade reminds of scale skin of a sea animal. Thanks to the scales and the curves the building almost appears to be organic and alive. This impression stands in an interesting contrast to the technical and partly plainly designed interior and the clear lines, which can be found again in the façade design despite the curves.


Constructor: Hessian Building Management RNL Mitte
Architect: Behles & Jochimsen, Berlin, Germany
Status: Completion: 2011
Size: MUA: 12,090 m²
Companies involved in the project:
GRAPHISOFT is a worldwide leading manufacturer of architectural software, selling its products all around the globe in over 100 countries and 25 language versions. At the largest CAD development department GRAPHISOFT have been developing products for 30 years now, used by meanwhile more than 100,000 users woldwide. Since 2007 GRAPHISOFT operates under the umbrella of the Nemetschek group.

ARCHICAD is the first model-based 3D architectural software, made by GRAPHISOFT, being the first BIM software on the market that has strongly changed the way architects and planners work and communicate and having optimized these processes to a decisive degree.

Product class: Architectural software
Manufacturer: GRAPHISOFT
Contact: [email protected]


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