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Our buildings

Self-governing dormitory, educational institution and cultural centre: the new Collegium Academicum, on the site of the former US Hospital in Heidelberg-Rohrbach, is composed of the following buildings:

  • The innovative new wooden building, with 46 residential units, an assembly hall with roof terrace and a common room.
  • The large old building with the orientation year and rented flats
  • The gatehouse for the future café and offices


The construction of the new building and the renovation of the existing building were accompanied by the International Building Exhibition (IBA) Heidelberg which operates as an excellence initiative for urban planning. The IBA promoted and accompanied forward-looking solutions in the face of urban planning and social challenges until 2022 and chose our project as an IBA PROJECT in 2015 under the motto "knowledge-based urbanism".

In addition, the project serves as a practical model for research into space-saving living with a high quality of life at the same time, which is accompanied by the ifeu (ifeu). The aspiration to reduce to the essential (sufficiency) is expressed in experimental living, communal areas and spaces for creative use.

Dormitory in new wooden building

The new building, designed by Hans Drexler, meets both high ecological and aesthetic standards. The architectural firm Drexler Guinand Jauslin specialises in energy-efficient construction and has won many awards for this in international competitions. The planning takes into account the consumption of resources not only with regard to future operation, but already in the building construction. Therefore, wood is used almost exclusively as a renewable raw material in the construction.
The innovative wooden building offers space for individuality and community: 46 shared apartments for three or four people are distributed over the four floors of the new building. A roof garden as a meeting place connects the upper flats on the roof of the assembly hall. All flats and pathways are designed to standards of barrier-free living, especially on the ground floor. The communal areas are also located there: a workshop, the assembly hall and a multifunctional room with kitchen.

© DGJ Architekten 2018
A flexible interplay of individual and communal space within the shared apartments is made possible by movable wall elements. In the approx. 80 m2 flat, the rooms have a regular size of 14 m2. By reducing the individual area, it is possible to opt for a communal area of up to 49 m2 as a shared apartment. Various intermediate forms, such as a private core area with a living room and study in front, which is separated from the communal area by shelf walls, curtains or similar, offer space for individual design.

The exhibition of such a single room took place in the past at various locations in Heidelberg, for example on the Universitätsplatz. At present, the model is on our site.

For the innovative character in the area of flexible living and the sustainable building concept, which focuses on communal areas, the project is being funded with 2.2 million euros from the future investment programme "Variowohnen" by the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building.

Orientation year and social rented housing in the old buildings

We think: Wherever sensible, energy-efficient refurbishment should have priority over new construction. The redevelopment of the old hospital administration building is guided by two essential goals: We want to create educational open spaces and at the same time housing - both permanently affordable and communal.

About 80 people will live in the old building from 2024. Of these, around 50 people will complete an orientation year between school and their further life, with the aim of getting to know different courses of study and training, developing their own personality and taking on responsibility in society. The orientation year is an important part of our educational concept and is expected to start in January 2024.

The remaining flats include a 2-bedroom flat and a 6-bedroom shared maisonette, as well as six 3- to 4-room flats, with which we want to create social rented housing. This is to provide a place to go for people on low incomes who cannot meet their housing needs on the normal housing market.

On the ground floor, in addition to social housing, there will be several multifunctional seminar and community rooms that are accessible without barriers.

Communal areas will also be set up on the upper floors. In addition, a bicycle workshop, a metal workshop and storage rooms in the basement are planned to complement our wood workshop in the new building.


The renovation essentially comprises three aspects: a conversion of an office building into a residential building, an energy-efficient refurbishment, and the creation of additional living space from the existing building fabric. Therefore, the floor plans will be edited, and the building will be upgraded structurally, acoustically and in terms of fire-protection. Currently, the exterior walls, basement ceiling and roof are being insulated. The windows have already been replaced to achieve the best possible energy standard in the existing building (KfW55). The extended roof, built-in dormers and the wooden bay window offer additional living space with high light penetration, which provides further comfort in the flats and common areas.

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Planning document showing the façade of the large old house from north-view.

In every step of the process, we take care to reuse and recycle building components and materials, as well as to use ecological building materials wherever possible. For example, cellulose flakes will be used as insulation in the roof, and pressed straw will provide the new drywalls. Doors, flooring, staircase railings, slates and other elements are going to be reused. We also save some materials for later creative use. Photovoltaic panels will complement the system on the new house, while the high occupancy will reduce heating demand. You can find a more detailed insight into our sustainability concept here.

Together with the Heidelberg architectural firm Gerstner + Hofmeister, we are currently in the process of planning and implementing the renovation of the old houses. Since the old building dates back to the 1930s and was last used as administrative offices, some structural changes are necessary. In order to make affordable housing possible, our goal is to keep the renovation and remodelling work to a minimum, thus preserving the existing building fabric. Together with the direct loans from our supporters and cost savings through construction work by own labour, KfW-subsidies for energy measures will also make affordable renovation possible. In committing ourselves to creating affordable housing, another financing component will be the financial support for subsidized rented housing.

Café and offices in the gatehouse

On the ground floor of the former gatekeeper's house, a self-managed café will offer opportunities for meeting and exchange - above all as a contact point for the neighbourhood. There will also be space for other ideas: For example, a "repair café" where electronic devices can be repaired together. The rooms on the upper floor are intended for self-administration offices and a counselling centre for the Mietshäusersyndikat are planned.

Even though we are still working out the exact concept, we are pleased that we are already sharing with other initiatives from Heidelberg, for example with the solidarity-based agriculture Gemüsekultur Heidelberg.