Interview: We are creating places where people can meet
Dr Dorothée Hofer, Managing Director of EBS Universität
What is the vision behind the construction work?
For many years now, our Campus Schloss has been the centre of our teaching excellent business leaders, who will play a decisive role in society and indeed our future. Our castle represents the stable foundation of our success. This is where our roots lie and the large EBS family always finds it way back here, where lifelong friendship and networks have developed, to carry innovation and the well-known EBSpirit out into the world. The extensive renovation and construction work is intended to underline the importance of the location for education at EBS Universität and to preserve it for the coming decades. In doing so, we intend to meet the changing demands on, for example, digital teaching and technical equipment and offer our students a modern, enlarged campus, which also offers a lot of learning space and places for the so important departmental and conference work. The modern cafeteria, which was opened some time ago with an extended range of food, gives a first impression of where the journey is heading: Make Change Happen!
What does the EBS Campus of the future look like?
First of all, the campus will be car-free. An event and lecture building with a walk-on roof terrace is currently under construction in the castle courtyard, which also connects the wings of the main building via a bridge. The cafeteria will be moving nearer the wine cellar and the adjoining rooms in the northern wing of the castle. The room currently used as a cafeteria can then be used for receptions, meetings, celebrations and as learning space. A new central path will lead past the Walther-Leiser-Kiep Center and into a square in front of the main castle building, which is intended to invite visitors to pause for a while among the vines.
We set great store by creating communal spaces, places where students, professors and all employees and visitors can meet, and which are intended to stimulate creativity. Despite all the changes, the EBS campus has an unmistakable identity that must be preserved, or at best enhanced.
What challenges have you faced up till now?
As you can imagine, construction work on a listed building is always a challenge. One encounters rare animal species and the most diverse interests of different stakeholders. However, we are very happy about the support of all those involved from the region and, so far, we are on schedule, even though we unearthed a well dating back to the 16th century when we were creating the water retention area. I would also say that the biggest challenge is the fact that we want to build “for eternity”, but of course we do not know exactly what the library and learning of the future will look like. But we are involving a lot of people, especially our students, in the construction process and we are also taking a rather bold stance.
How did you go about planning?
We looked at the future of EBS Universität in terms of student numbers, teaching and learning needs, employee numbers and wishes, and in a number of workshops, a picture emerged that became and is still becoming clearer from meeting to meeting, because we are constantly developing the entire building on the drawing board, but we only make specific plans section by section, which gives us the chance to include new insights as we progress.
What role does SRH play in the construction work?
When SRH purchased EBS Universität, it was immediately clear that extensive investments would have to be made in the building structure and Campus Schloss. This was a matter close to everyone’s heart, especially to our large family of alumni. SRH has taken on this task with its expertise in large construction projects together with its investment strength and innovative power and is the driving force behind the entire development.
How has Corona impacted building?
Building progress has not been affected by the Corona pandemic. But of course, this crisis makes us think and discuss questions such as our university has managed very quickly to switch its entire teaching at a high academic level to online teaching, to the great satisfaction of our students – what does this mean for the future of our face-to-face teaching? How important is campus life for our students? In this case, for example, we believe that when answering this question we need to differentiate according to the study programmes and study progress.
However, the Corona crisis had one impact: we were very sorry to have to cancel our ceremonial laying of the foundation stone planned for 4 April, which we wanted to celebrate with citizens of the town, regional partners and the EBS community. We are now planning to celebrate the opening of the first building described above, in the courtyard, due to be completed in the first quarter of 2021. We are already looking forward to this very much!