The winning design

by Xaveer de Geyter Architects, Topotek 1 Architektur, and Topotek 1 Landschaftsarchitekten (Brussels, Zurich & Berlin)

»Situated on the banks of the River Main, the new HfG building is intended to be a dense, urban campus in the former industrial harbor area. We took a holistic approach to designing the campus by considering urban-planning, architectural, and climatic aspects on different scales: at the level of the city, the campus, and the workshop. The new university building is intended to serve as a creative core in the transformation process of the city’s harbor district into a post-industrial role, and thus as the expression of the innovative and art-oriented district of the future.«

The cut-through

Perspective from the southwest

[ ] The volumes of the campus are defined by a series of subtractions: the garden, the cut-through, the building lines dictated by urban planning stipulations, a space for future expansion of the structure, and a series of smaller cut-out sections that perforate the long façades of the two four-story buildings. [ ] The campus is designed like a little town within the building: As an internal street, the gallery grants access to the different clusters and is also generously proportioned. The façades of the building ensembles form a patchwork of transparent, translucent, and opaque elements. [ ]

Interior perspective – ground floor

Interior perspective – ground floor

Spatial planning

3rd floor

2nd floor

1st floor


Ground floor

Building concept

The monumental staircase

The strong identity of the foyer, located centrally by the cut-through and the gallery, is created by a monumental staircase that connects the public functions on the ground floor (foyer, auditorium, exhibition space) with the library on the 1st floor. The threefold division of this large wooden staircase allows for versatile uses: for sitting, gathering, and exhibiting.

The staggered atrium

In the workshop and classroom areas there is a three-level atrium. This geometry creates staggered platforms connected by metal staircases that link the workshops on the first floor with the upper classrooms. Students from different disciplines can gather in this light-flooded space with its view of the surrounding area to exchange ideas, present their work, and relax.

The patios

The four external terraces are designed as perforations in the building and offer terraces of different sizes. The large, cut-out patio between the student housing and cluster 4 can be used by both user groups. It is ideally situated between the garden and the riverbank and offers a view of Frankfurt city center while also allowing sunlight to flood in from the south.

The bridge

The bridge is located at the eastern end of the garden: On the first floor it is an interior space that allows for the exhibition of students’ work. On the upper floors, the bridge is an outdoor space and serves as a terrace as well as a connecting route between clusters 3 and 4. This outdoor scaffolding can be used for hanging an open-air cinema screen.

Open-space concept

Focus areas

The square at the entrance consists of several smaller spaces that relate to the various uses within the adjacent parts of the building. Unique spaces are created by the interplay of the urban granite furniture that guides users through the space. The amphitheater is a sunken plaza made of brick, where students can enjoy their free time and use the space as they wish. The openness of the space makes it an ideal center for activities like performances, exhibitions, and debates.

Open-space design

The façade of the building, which allows insights into the colorful diversity of university life to the outside, is offset by the gardens as a varied and colorful open space. The planting of the courtyard with Scotch pine trees creates the surprising, natural moment of a Hortus conclusus, which contrasts with the surrounding urban open space. The sculptural, bony growth of the pines mediates between the gardens and the skeletal façade structure of the architecture. Growing at different heights, the crowns of the pines form a tiered roof for the gardens in the inner courtyard, providing generous shade in summer.


Different materials, surface structures, and furnishings lend each of the individual gardens their own particular character that reinforces their different purposes. Informal pathways connect the seven different gardens in an east-west direction – the entrance garden with the canteen seating area, the open plaza of the cut-through, the amphitheater, the sunbathing lawn, the garden for workshops and internal university presentations/projections, and the forest.

Entrances and access roads

All main entrances to the main functions of the campus are located at the intersection between the gallery and the cut-through. The access road to the underground garage and the separate ramp for the bicycle parking spaces are located on the connecting road to the Walter Spiller Bridge, as is the delivery zone for the cafeteria and cluster 5. Deliveries for construction site B take place via the access road on Hafenallee, a covered thoroughfare between clusters 3 and 4 designed to accommodate deliveries by trucks up to 40 tons.

Underground garage with storage and technical areas, 48 car parking spaces, and approx. 100 bicycle parking spaces

North view

South view

Cross-section of the inner courtyard

Cross-section through the main entrance and the canteen area with the inner courtyard of building A