Building the Court




26 Foreword

Andreas Voßkuhle

President of the Federal Constitutional Court

28 Foreword

Barbara Hendricks

Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety

30 Scrutiny of state powers

The founding and history of the Federal Constitutional Court

Dieter Gosewinkel

34 A court for (almost) every case

200,000 sets of court proceedings and many major rulings

Helmut Kerscher

38 Building for a democratically constituted state

Baumgarten’s building as one of the first non-monumental law court buildings in the world

Heinrich Wefing

44 A beginning amid borrowed splendor

The Prinz-Max-Palais as official residence, from 1951 to 1969

Falk Jaeger

48 In the spirit of “Never again!”

The collaboration with the architect Paul Baumgarten

Michael Wilkens

52 A spirited intervention

The urban planning context in Karlsruhe’s Schlossbezirk district

Falk Jaeger

58 A glass residence

New architecture for a task of vital importance to the state

Falk Jaeger

70 A sensitive extension

The 2007 extension building

Falk Jaeger

74 The Waldstadt official residence

The temporary premises used during the construction work

Arno Lederer

82 Construction culture and energy efficiency

New principles for the treatment of historical buildings

Günther Hoffmann

84 With consideration and a good eye

The full renovation of the existing building

Falk Jaeger

136 Flowing green space

Embedding of the courtroom building in the city

and in the park

Adriaan Geuze

140 Construction hoardings art

The construction site as a place where art is manifested

Volker Albus

144 Eye to eye

Franz Ackermann’s wall painting

Stephan Berg

152 A monument to anti-monumentality

The Federal Constitutional Court as a

monumental piece of architecture

Klaus Jan Philipp

156 A building for a constitutional organ

President Andreas Voßkuhle,

interviewed by Falk Jaeger

166 Appendix

Chronology and dates

Project participants


Picture credits



The building ensemble of the Federal Constitutional Court

The extension building

The former cafeteria

The library

The courtroom building

The Justices’ building

The administration building

following pages:

[8/9] Aerial view taken from a southerly direction. The Federal Constitutional

Court is located between the Schloss (upper right)

and the Kunsthalle (lower left), the Botanischer Garten (on the

left) and the Schlossplatz plaza (on the right)

[10/11] The courtroom building projects forward as far as the

Schlossturm, or Schloss tower.

[12/13] The courtroom building fits into the alignment of the Schlossbezirk-Waldstrasse


The Federal Constitutional Court’s front plaza is defined by

the courtroom building and the Justices’ building.



above: On four buildings the

sheet metal roof structures,

laid in the traditional historical

fashion, were rebuilt with radial

standing seams.

below: A covered passage with

aisles connects all of the court



above: The Justices’ Circle has a continuous

connective passageway passing beneath it.

following pages:

[20/21] Following the removal of the office

container structure that had been

inserted beneath it, the Justices’

Circle now once again floats

above the garden at ground level.



Andreas Voßkuhle

President of the Federal Constitutional Court

We take the people and things that we see around us every

day for granted. Often, we lose sight of the things that make

them special. Only when they are suddenly gone do we

recognize their value with a new clarity. This is also how it

is with the building in Karlsruhe, in the neighborhood of the

Karlsruher Schloss, which houses the Federal Constitutional


Certainly the court was not inadequately catered for

by its interim location in Karlsruhe’s Waldstadt area, which it

occupied from July 2011 to September 2014. The redesign

of the “General-Kammhuber-Kaserne” building to create a

court building is impressive—both in terms of the design

created by architect Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei and its

practical implementation. It is simply that the outstanding

qualities possessed by Baumgarten’s building have been

made still more evident by the three-year period required

for its renovation: it is tailor-made for the work of the Federal

Constitutional Court, so much so that, almost fifty years after

it was originally built, almost nothing needed to be changed.

Back in the 1960s, juxtaposing a cubic building with a

very reduced formal language with the baroque Karlsruher

Schloss certainly represented a bold move. The idea of

applying a formal language of that kind to a court building,

however, can only be described as revolutionary. And yet,

at the time, the planning and construction of this ensemble

did not lead to any kind of wider public debate. The iconographic

significance of the building did not find a foothold in

the general consciousness until later. This significance lies

in the way the inside and outside of this building appear to

merge—not only are the citizens permitted to view “their”

Justices, but the Justices themselves appear to remain

a part of the world that surrounds the court building. This

circumstance exerts an influence on the court’s attitude and

way of working, and has contributed significantly to its identity

as a citizens’ court.

We are therefore doubly pleased to be able, once

more, to take possession of the Baumgarten building—

whose form remains unchanged, but has been given a

new freshness. In the name of all Justices of the Federal

Constitutional Court and all staff of the court, I wish to thank

wholeheartedly all those who played a part in the success

of the renovation work. This complex project was the work

of many heads and hands—from the construction authorities

to the companies that carried out the work. The fact

that it was finished on time and with the costs kept within

reasonable bounds qualifies as an especially impressive


Professor Wolfgang Grether, the director of the regional

state construction authority in Baden-Baden, deserves a

special mention in this context. He coordinated the renovation

work—from the overall outlines to the fine detail—in an

outstanding manner. By coming up with numerous ideas

and tailored solutions, his team made it possible for this

listed building to be preserved in its historical form, but

also equipped with the latest state-of-the-art technology.

We should also thank the federal ministries involved in the

project and the Oberfinanzdirektion Karlsruhe (the higher

finance directorate in Karlsruhe) with its Landesbetrieb

Bundesbau Baden-Württemberg (state regional operation

for federal construction in Baden-Württemberg) for a collaboration

that was characterized by goodwill and a lack of

tension. As a substitute for mentioning all those involved,


I wish to make special mention of Mr. Günther Hoffmann

and Ms. Gisela Nobis-Fritzen, who had responsibility for the

project in their capacity as the director-general and head of

division, respectively, for the Federal Ministry for the Environment,

Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

I should not finish without mentioning that the court’s construction

commission held twenty-four meetings in order to

ensure a rapid decision-making process, and to make sure

that the perspective of the principal and user of the building

was properly represented.

This book is dedicated to a synthesis between a

building’s architecture and that building’s use. In addition

to acquainting the reader with Baumgarten’s building, it is

intended that this book will give an insight into the work of

the Federal Constitutional Court. Helmut Kerscher, Dieter

Gosewinkel and Heinrich Wefing provide an account of the

Federal Constitutional Court, its history, and the historical

significance of Baumgarten’s building. This is followed by

expositions of the building’s urban plan-related and architectonic

aspects by Falk Jaeger and by Michael Wilkens, who

previously worked for Baumgarten’s firm. Günther Hoffmann,

Adriaan Geuze and Falk Jaeger provide an account of the

fundamental renovation of the building. This is followed by

an article by Arno Lederer on the alternative accommodation

designed by him for the Dienstsitz Waldstadt (Waldstadt

official residence). The articles by Stephan Berg and Volker

Albus are dedicated to art. Finally, Klaus Jan Philipp recognizes

Baumgarten’s building as a monumental piece of

architecture. The book is rounded out by a large number of

photographs and of drawings.


Scrutiny of state powers

Dieter Gosewinkel

The founding and history of the Federal

Constitutional Court

The Federal Constitutional Court passed its first decision in

Karlsruhe on September 9, 1951. There were few indications

that this event was to mark the start of the work of one of the

most influential and powerful courts in German history. The

inauguration of the court had been delayed by the debate

on where it should be based. Its first official action was

concerned with the question of whether the federal state

of Baden-Württemberg, within which the court is located,

had in fact been duly constituted under constitutional law.

Additionally, the court was the last constitutional organ to

be founded by a German state that, owing to the division

of Germany, regarded itself as provisional. In this uncertain

political situation, the Grundgesetz (the Basic Law, or constitution)

granted the new court an abundance of powers. The

court was authorized to make final binding decisions on the

constitutional or unconstitutional status of the activities of all

three state powers: the actions of the government, the decisions

of the judiciary and also the acts of legislators were

placed under the constitutional court’s scrutiny. This triple

primacy, combined with strict adherence to the constitution,

made the legal authority of the Federal Constitutional Court

greater than, for instance, that of the courts of the old Imperial

Germany, or of the state court (Staatsgerichtshof) of the

Weimar Republic.

The establishing of these powers in law, however, was

not enough. In the young Federal Republic, whose constitutional

practice was as yet undefined, they would have

to be asserted and to endure amid the political conflicts

surrounding the constitution. The evolution of the Federal

Constitutional Court into a generally respected guardian of

the constitution was the result of a political process whose

outcome was based on, however not pre-determined by,

constitutional law. In the first phase of this process, which

lasted until the end of the 1950s, the court—this “latecoming

constitutional organ”—had to formulate and assert its identity,

through confrontation with the other constitutional organs.

The Statusdenkschrift (memorandum on status) composed

by the specialist on state/constitutional law Gerhard Leibholz

in 1952 gave central place to the special political character

of constitutional law, and of constitutional jurisdiction,

in response to the doubts that had been expressed in the

government and in parliament concerning the legitimacy of

the political significance of constitutional jurisdiction. In the

great constitutional jurisdiction debates on rearmament and

on Federal Republic foreign policy of 1952/1954, the court

found itself exposed to political criticism and to efforts on the

part of the federal government to influence its stance. Amid

this far-reaching strife, the court asserted its independence,

founding it firmly upon constitutional policy. Equally, when

faced with criticism from the regular courts, who persisted

in seeing themselves as guardians of the “legal” interpretation

(as opposed to the “political” interpretation), the Federal

Constitutional Court was able to maintain its position thanks

to the quality and authority of its specifically constitutionallaw

arguments. Its case-law, which rapidly began to produce

a canon for interpretation of constitutional law, provided

the basis. In its fundamental decisions on the defense of

the constitutional system against neo-National Socialist and

communist parties in 1952 and 1956, the court gave legal

outlines to the openly formulated provisions of the constitution,

and gave the fundamental principles of the Federal

Republic a distinctly liberal, anti-totalitarian orientation.


Building for a democratically

constituted state

Heinrich Wefing

Baumgarten’s building as one of the first nonmonumental

law court buildings in the world

Today, when one looks back, after more than sixty years,

at the representative architecture of the young Federal

Republic—and the rather differently accented representative

architecture of the GDR—what one notices is just how

politicized these architecture projects were, from the very

beginning. Plain functionality was never considered to be

sufficient: principals, architects and critics alike took it for

granted that state buildings should say something about the

state, about its identity, about how it saw itself and about its

attitude to the rest of the world. The plans for government

buildings in East Berlin (largely unrealized) were accompanied

by an intense concentration of propaganda, which was

often astonishingly nationalistic in character. There was also

far more to the establishment of the new seat of government

in Bonn than the creation of construction volumes and

systems of spaces.

The Federal Republic of Germany has seen more

ongoing and wide-ranging debate than any other nationstate

on whether or not there is such a thing as a specifically

“democratic” style of architecture, and on how

“democracy as principal” should behave. These debates

did not remain within the realm of the theoretical and

esoteric: they found concrete expression in the plans for

the parliamentary and government buildings in Bonn and

Berlin. At the opening of the new plenary assembly hall of

the Deutscher Bundestag (the German Federal Assembly)

in Bonn in October 1992, for instance, the then Bundestag

president Rita Süssmuth stated: “This parliament building

is more than the architectonic implementation of parliamentary

functions. In and of itself, it expresses a certain

understanding of democracy.”

While a number of different reasons existed for this emphatic

political element, it can be assumed that two in particular

played a significant role. When the Federal Republic—and,

a short time later, the GDR—began to establish their seats

of government, it marked a new beginning in architectonic

terms—in part, at least. The traditional state buildings of

Berlin were in any case unavailable, as they had been either

damaged or entirely destroyed during the war—and, above

all, because the functions associated with a capital city had

to be relocated from their traditional sites around the Wilhelmstrasse

and the Reichstag. In the case of the GDR, they

were relocated towards the Schlossplatz; in the case of the

Federal Republic, to Bonn on the Rhine.

This state of affairs resulted in the cutting of all ties of

tradition, and the absence of the kind of state architecture

laden with memory and with historic dignity that one sees

in most states—this factor was in any case distinctly unwelcome

after the horrors of the war and the dictatorship.

On the contrary, the style chosen for the new buildings was

intended to express a political new beginning—the architectonic

equivalent of the “zero hour”. This in itself meant that

the architecture was, inevitably, political.

This tendency was reinforced by the fact that, under

National Socialism, architecture had been intensively

pressed into service for ideological and propaganda purposes.

The representative buildings of the National Socialist

state, such as the party’s rally grounds in Nuremberg,

the Neue Reichskanzlei (the new imperial chancellery) in

Berlin—which was constructed in great haste—and the

German pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition of 1937, were

proclaimed by their principals to be “a worldview in stone”.


Today, the former Reichsgericht (imperial court)

in Leipzig, which was first inaugurated in 1895,

has become the Bundesverwaltungsgericht

(the Federal Administrative Court).


In the spirit of “Never again!”

Michael Wilkens

The collaboration with the architect

Paul Baumgarten

Modern! The young of today have no idea how the sound

of that word was music to our ears back then, in those days

after the war, after all those stifling years. Every time another

of those UFOs of modernism—which was so new to us—

landed somewhere or other, we would make our way there.

When we got there, we would see it shimmering, pure white,

amid all the ruins and the rundown housing: Scharoun’s new

school in Lünen: modern! Eiermann’s church in Pforzheim,

Häring’s buildings in Biberach: modern! This was the new

age; this was our future.

These are impassioned words, but make no mistake: it

was not the purist and totalitarian modernism of the 1920s

that we wanted. After all, we were also known as “the skeptical

generation”. That was the way it was: yes, we want modernism,

but, please, not too loud. We don’t want any of those

plans to make the world better, or elitist attitudes; we don’t

want to be like Mies, the Holy Father, in Chicago. In saying

this, I am trying to give you some idea of what a ray of hope

Baumgarten’s architecture was for us. As Dieter Hoffmann-

Axthelm put it: “Baumgarten (with his concert hall for the

Musikhochschule in Berlin) has turned the light on again in

postwar Germany.”

It was not that there were not already prominent names

in architecture at the time—most notably, Egon Eiermann in

Karlsruhe. But his modernism was itself loud and ostentatious.

When I was studying with Eiermann, he once described

something in one of my designs as “ugly” during a discussion

of the week’s drafting work. I defended myself in an undertone,

saying that while he might go in for Mercedes, I preferred

the Citroën, the (ugly) duck(ling)”. He was the proud

owner of a Mercedes convertible, and my words appeared to

make an impression; at any rate, he replied without his usual

somewhat flippant humor. This, however, is precisely where

the difference lies: this elegant Parisian understatement that

did not shy away from corrugated sheet metal as a material,

that was something that only Baumgarten could do—and that

was what our “skeptical modernism” was all about!

At around that time—after Baumgarten won the international

competition for a theater building in Karlsruhe—I ended

my studies with Eiermann and went to Berlin, where I was

given a job by Baumgarten and eventually rose to become

his representative in matters of “overall artistic direction”, or

some such title.

It is worth taking a closer look at the award-winning

Karlsruher Theater design. In fact, it was planned that this

theater would be built on the site that later became the site

for his Federal Constitutional Court building. Baumgarten

won the competition because his design was the most successful

in achieving the unspoken ideal of postwar modernism:

what he created was, in fact, not architecture at all!

Just a cloud of sheet metal screens! There was a certain

logic to this: anyone creating a piece of architecture for this

particular site, located beside the center and pivotal point

of this baroque Fächerstadt (fan city) would be forced either

to comply slavishly with the totalitarian dictates of baroque

architecture or to step rebelliously out of line. Baumgarten

simply refused this architectonic hurdle by creating something

that had no weight and no direction, something that

was so non-emotive that it had no impact on the baroque

plaza space. This lightness, so determinedly unheroic, this

refusal to make a spectacular entrance, was the characteristic

quality of postwar modernism.


Paul Baumgarten, drawing the

floor plan for the Justices’ building


A glass residence

Falk Jaeger

New architecture for a task of vital importance to

the state

A courtroom has always been a type of building that demands

reverence—a building that, above all things, announces

the power of the law upon which it is founded and

that is exercised within it. Architects use all architectonic

means at their disposal to achieve this effect: in addition to

the building’s position within the urban plan, this extends to

the dimensioning and structuring of the building, and to the

forms used in the building’s design—usually derived from

previous epochs—which are chosen to express dignity. A

particularly extreme example serves to make this especially

clear: the Palace of Justice in Brussels, which was built

between 1866 and 1863. This “Babylonian Monument”,

as Paul Verlaine called it—a mighty stone massif over one

hundred meters in height—stands in an elevated position on

the Galgenberg, and dominates half the city in a way that

would previously have been associated only with cathedrals

and civic castles, and was subsequently associated only

with Ceausescu’s “Palace of the People” in Bucharest. The

monumental pillars make the cars parked at the front of the

building look like toys, and consign the passers-by to the

role of ants. In 1888, when Ludwig Hoffmann and Peter Dybwat

designed the Reichsgericht court building in Leipzig,

the Brussels building represented a significant influence.

This was how buildings associated with justice were supposed

to look—and this remained the consensus view, into

the Third Reich era and beyond.

And then, when an architect called Paul Baumgarten

came along, he surprised everyone by creating a pavilion

complex design for Germany’s highest court. He declined

to concentrate the structure’s mass in order to create a

more voluminous body for the building, to endow it with a

weightier appearance. He also decided not to create an axis

of symmetry, a grand plaza for the front of the building, or

a ceremonial route through a portal structure into the holy

halls of justice and leading to the door of the holy of holies.

This represented an astonishing and radical change in the

state of things whose enormity is virtually impossible to

comprehend from today’s perspective—and this had to be

accepted by the founding fathers of the Grundgesetz (the

constitution, or Basic Law) and by the population at large.

Baumgarten was not a revolutionary or an avant-gardist—he

was a man of upright Prussian virtue, and a sincere

proponent of modernism. He was also a man who was not

willing to make concessions—not in the 1930s, and not

in the postwar years either. It did not occur to him that his

creation should be an extension of the absolutist urban configuration

of the area surrounding the Karlsruher Schloss.

The greatest concession he was prepared to make was to

move the courtroom building into alignment with the street


This approach also liberated him from the logic of

an axial entry into the building through a front area. Coming

from the street, one turns left in a fairly incidental way

and finds oneself in a non-formal plaza between two of the

court buildings: there is no cour d’honneur, no enclosed

courtyard. Instead, there is an open situation with views

of the Botanischer Garten. One must change direction in

order to reach the courtroom building. There is no showcase

grand stair construction, and one must traverse only a few

steps—instead of being elevated on a pedestal, the building

is raised only slightly, for practical purposes. There is no

gesture of reception—nothing like a portal structure.


The front plaza of the new Federal

Constitutional Court, in 1969


nal connection to the rooms in the kitchen wing and tower

wing of the Karlsruher Schloss used by the administration

and Court Office departments of the Federal Constitutional

Court, an underground passage was created between the

Schloss and the court building. This passageway rises to

the surface on the north side of the administration building.

It connects to an elongation of the connective walkway.

In March 2007, when construction work on the extension

ended, the ensemble had reached the state of construction

at which it found itself in 2011, when the fundamental

renovation began. It did not experience any significant

changes in the course of the renovation.

ly produced only a small control building. The public were

barred from the road in front of the building. In 1994, the

existing gatehouse was replaced with a new, larger building.

A year later, more extensive changes were made to the

cafeteria building. It would have been too expensive to renovate

the elegant public restaurant and the terrace facing

towards the Botanischer Garten, as the whole of the kitchen

area no longer met the necessary standards. Additionally,

the court was in urgent need of extra space, and so it was

decided to convert this area into office space.

In 2000, seven office rooms were added to the lower

story of the library building. In order to provide an interabove:

The courtroom in

1969, the year it was built


above: The library’s

central space housed

reference works and

catalogs, now obsolete.

right: The reception room

in the courtroom building

in the 1970s


With consideration and a

good eye

Falk Jaeger

The full renovation of the existing building

It is not unusual—in fact, it is the rule rather than the exception—for

a building from the 1960s to be in need of

fundamental renovation. Nor is it by any means unusual for

the building in question to have to be emptied out entirely,

and for several parts of it to be reduced to the loadbearing

structure for purposes of redevelopment. This is owing to

the need to replace the technical systems installed in the

building, whose lifespans are much shorter than that of the

building itself. The same is often true of façade systems.

However, one must also consider contemporary standards

of comfort—which may call for bathroom-type installations,

for instance. Then, there are access issues, and, above

all, the need for an energy-related overhaul—the adapting

of the building to meet up-to-date standards of thermal

insulation, primary energy consumption, ventilation-related

comfort, and lighting and illumination.

A far-reaching renovation of this type—which generally

includes the replacement of the aged façades and windows,

and many of the building’s internal surfaces—gives the building

a new appearance. Frequently, this provides an opportunity

to bring the style of the building up to date, and to make

“facelift”-type improvements.

The Federal Constitutional Court suffered from many of

the problems mentioned above: energy statistics that were no

longer acceptable, exceptionally uncomfortable climate conditions,

and structural damage that included leaking roofs.

A fundamental renovation was required. The conditions,

however, were highly specialized, as the building has been

recognized as a historical monument since November 2000.

Above all, the good functioning of the construction

commission was vital in guaranteeing the completion of the

project on time—it enabled the court, as the building’s user,

to present its requirements and needs, putting the architects

of the Staatliches Hochbauamt (the regional state building

authority) under the leadership of Prof. Wolfgang Grether

in a position to implement these requirements in the form

of concrete concepts and detailed planning. This close

collaboration was characterized by a high degree of consensus

and understanding, meaning that decisions were

thoroughly considered but also prompt. Many decisions

could be reached in a fairly non-bureaucratic way—always

in the interest of expediting the work.

Before commencement of the work, the building

was checked for noxious substance contamination. Some

problematic materials were found, although these did not

pose a threat to users. It was initially planned that only those

components that contained noxious substances and that

were touched during the course of the renovation should

be removed. During the construction period, it was decided

that all reachable components containing noxious substances

should be removed.

Frequently, the issues that had to be taken into account

by the construction commission related to historic

monument preservation. The users and the authority for the

preservation of historic monuments were in agreement on

the need to minimize alterations to the building’s appearance.

Their aims were therefore largely identical—these

aims, however, could not be realized in every respect,

since, in dealing with architecture from the 1950s and the

1960s, the requirement to preserve historic features and to

substantially preserve the identity of cultural monuments

frequently comes into conflict with architectural physics and


The buildings were hidden behind the

scaffolding for almost three years.



Floor plan of the second upper story,

following the 2014 renovation


Courtroom building

Façade section, top view and floor plan section

Roof construction:

- 50-mm gravel pack

- bitumen foils

- 12-cm PUR hard foam

- vapor barrier

- 10.5-cm hollow core concrete decking

Cast aluminum plates

140-mm insulation

2-mm aluminum sheeting

Sun protection

60-mm flat slats, RAL 9006 surface

Two-story wooden window element

Wood type: Oregon Pine

Floor construction:

- 40-mm paving slabs

- 30-mm drainage level

- bitumen foil

- 60-mm sloping screed

Handrail Aluminum

Cast aluminum plates

120-mm insulation

Sun protection

60-mm flat slats, RAL 9006 surface

Suspended ceiling, wood type: Oregon Pine

Wooden window element, wood type: Oregon Pine

Handrail: Aluminum

Stainless steel tensioning cables

Cast aluminum plates

Floor construction:

- 40-mm paving slabs

- 30-mm drainage level

- bitumen foils

- 60-mm sloping screed

120-mm insulation

Suspended ceiling, wood type: Oregon Pine

50-mm basalt mosaic paving


Courtyard façade of the Justices’ Circle

Façade section, top view and floor plan section

Roof construction:

- roof band, 1-mm aluminum profile panel, pre-weathered surface

- mineral wool, solid enough to walk on, 15 mm

- permeable formwork liner

- roof cladding: 2.5-cm wood

Wood cladding, wood type: Oregon Pine

120-mm insulation

Sun protection

60-mm flat slats, RAL 9006 surface

Wooden window element, wood type: Oregon Pine

100-mm insulation

Sound-insulated ventilator

Wood cladding, wood type: Oregon Pine

Sun protection

60-mm flat slats, RAL 9006 surface

Wooden window element

Wood type: Oregon Pine

Sound-insulated ventilator

Wood cladding, wood type: Oregon Pine

100-mm insulation

Suspended ceiling, wood type: Oregon Pine

Steel girders IPB 360






A monument to antimonumentality

Klaus Jan Philipp

The Federal Constitutional Court as a monumental

piece of architecture

In 1962, when Paul Baumgarten was commissioned to build

the Federal Constitutional Court building in Karlsruhe, he

already had experience in creating buildings for the young

Federal Republic of Germany, thanks to the conversion and

reconstruction of the Reichstag in Berlin, and to his membership

in the “planning council” for the preparatory planning

of the nation’s capital city. He was aware of the difficulties—

even of the impossibility—of finding suitable visual forms and

an architectonic language for a state whose recent history

ruled out representative buildings endowed with the traditional

trappings of dignity: modes that did not seek to hide

the undisputed achievements and successes of the state, but

which at the same time did not trumpet them and place them

in the foreground. What had to be done was to find a form

for the singular construction assignment represented by the

“Federal Constitutional Court” that compared with distinction

both to transparent exhibition buildings and to representational

administrative buildings. Ultimately, the essence of the

iconic quality that this complex possesses—and it is, in fact,

only superficially anti-iconic and anti-emotive—lies in its fine

distinctions and in its hidden contradictions. In terms of the

urban plan, the five pavilions represent a continuation of the

Schloss’s west wing toward the inner city—this continuation,

however, is not axial, but is instead realigned along the

glazed bridge to extend into the Botanischer Garten. The

architectonic qualities of the pavilions are attuned to their

significance. The courtroom building is outstanding, and the

Justices’ building is of particular quality. In the case of the

Justices’ building, the inflexible rectangular quality associated

with the other pavilions is relieved by having the Justices’

rooms and the deliberation rooms stand out from the line of

the façade—in a different position on each side. In spite of

the pavilion’s overall shape, which is self-contained and at

rest, this gives the Justices’ pavilion a dynamic quality. A grid

system was minutely adhered to in the case of every pavilion

and room; this extended to the fine details of the ceilings and

to the positioning of the ceiling lamps. This rigidity is in contradiction

to the unconventional design of the soffits for the

corners of the courtroom building’s projecting components:

the wooden laths are not cut miter-fashion at the corners—instead,

they run around the corner in what might be described

as an organic fashion. On the one hand, this contrasts with

a consistently orthogonal ensemble. On the other hand,

this detail is in keeping with the façade’s “natural” aluminum

panels—flat, extensive components that are in themselves a

contrast with the delicately structured construction.

Baumgarten did not smooth over these contradictions,

nor did he display them in an ostentatious manner.

The building alternates between the qualities of openness

and closedness, of transparency and high-profile presentation,

of lightness and dignity. However, it never comes

down decisively on either side, and this gives it a unique

ambivalence—as befits such a singular construction assignment.

These alternating architectonic qualities may be the

reason why the court complex is barely mentioned in the

wider architectural history of the Federal Republic of Germany.

We can be sure, however, that this non-decisiveness

is itself iconic; it reflects both Germany’s sense of its own

identity and the image that, then as now, the nation seeks to

project: not too superior, pompous and wedded to tradition,

but not too modest either, and with sufficient self-confidence

to present a weight of significance. A 1969 textbook on ad-


The original wood wall paneling:

a historic preservation issue


A building for a constitutional organ

President Andreas Voßkuhle, interviewed by Falk Jaeger

Mr. President, the Federal Constitutional Court building was found to be in need of renovation,

having been in service for more than four decades. As we have heard, you have taken

an intensive interest in the construction project. Were the reasons for this renovation architectural

and operational, or was it a question of the work of the court being adversely affected?

Above all, the building needed to be renovated owing to energy consumption issues. In summer,

intolerable heat was making it hard for people to work, and heating the building in winter was a

problem owing to its single glazing. Buckets had to be put under certain areas of the roof that

were not waterproof to catch the drips. Further problems emerged during the planning stage,

including fire safety issues. The renovation became a comprehensive program of improvements.

When it was realized that the building would require full renovation, which would mean that

it would have to be vacated for a time, was there any talk of taking the opportunity to relocate

the court?

No. The restoration didn’t prompt a debate like the one that took place after the reunification,

when Potsdam was discussed as a possible new location. After all, why would we move? The

Federal Constitutional Court operates independently of the political machinery, and does not

have to be located close to the Bundestag or to the seat of government. We are quite comfortable

here in Karlsruhe.

When the extent of the renovation that would be required became plain, did you consider

demolishing the building and replacing it with a new building?

We did briefly consider it, but we quickly decided to renovate the old building instead, not least

for the sake of continuity. The Baumgarten building, which is listed for preservation, was tailored

with exceptional intelligence to the working needs of the Federal Constitutional Court in its day,

and the same is true today, more than forty years later. Now as then, there are still two senates

with eight Justices belonging to each. On the other hand, at the time, each Justice had only a

single research assistant. Today, the average figure is four, resulting in the necessity for the extension

building that was inaugurated just over seven years ago.


I have never ceased to be astonished at the influence that the building has on our work. It is a

very bright and accessible building, light and not ostentatious. Its transparency and its restrained

quality give it a particular ambience. People can watch us at our work as they stroll from the

Schlossplatz, or from the Botanischer Garten. Every day, this makes us aware that we are there

for the people. In the light of these positive experiences, the decision to keep the building and to

bring it up to modern-day technical standards through a thorough renovation was not, ultimately,

a difficult one.

What do you feel is special about this building?

Our image of the court building comes from Wilhelminism, from the Reichsgericht (the Imperial

Court of Justice) building in Leipzig, from the Justizpalast buildings of Berlin and Munich. The

new building that was created for the highest court of what was then a still young Federal Republic

was a deliberate break with this tradition. Previous court buildings were intended to represent

the power of the state, and tended to intimidate: their message is that justice is great and that the

individual is small. In contrast to this, we have the architecture of the Baumgarten building, with

its transparency and openness, the sense that this building presents an open face to the public.

From the very beginning, the building therefore possessed great iconic significance. Other court

buildings have since been inspired by its example—Strasbourg, Bloemfontein in South Africa…

You are saying that the architecture of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has an international


We are in constant contact with our colleagues in other countries. When delegations visit us,

we frequently notice that they are deeply moved by the character and by the atmosphere of our

building. For instance, I recall a visit from the president of the constitutional court of a state in the

former Soviet Union, who was astonished that an institution so vital to the state and so respected

worldwide was able to present itself in such an open and unconstrained manner, and made the

following admission to me: “I do not know exactly why, but this building moves my heart; I haven’t

felt this way before!”




September 1951

The court’s work commences in the Prinz-Max-Palais

2005 to 2007

The extension building is constructed


Planning of the new building begins

February 1965

Construction begins

October 1966

Topping-out ceremony

May 1969

The keys are handed over

from 1982 onwards

Office spaces are rented in the Schloss

March 2010 to April 2011

The staff building of the former General-Kammhuber-

Kaserne air force barracks building is converted to

provide a temporary official seat for the court

July 2011

The court relocates to its temporary official residence

August 2011

Work on the fundamental renovation begins

from August 2014 onwards

The court moves back into and recommences its

work in the renovated official residence

1995 to 1997

Conversion of the cafeteria building into offices

November 2014

Official celebration of return to the original building


Seven additional office rooms are installed in the

lower story of the library


Containers with thirteen rooms beneath the

Justices’ building


An architectural competition is held to design

the extension building


Use area (UA) 10,086 m²

Gross floor area (GFA) 16,342 m²

Gross space content (GSC) 64,274 m³

Construction costs for the renovation approx. 55 million euros


Project participants


The Federal Republic of Germany

Represented by the

Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation,

Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)

Represented by the

Oberfinanzdirektion Karlsruhe (the higher finance directorate

for Karlsruhe), Bundesbau Baden-Württemberg (the federal

construction authority for Baden-Württemberg)

Represented by the

Staatliches Hochbauamt Baden-Baden (the state construction

authority in Baden-Baden)

Technical building services

Carpus + Partner AG, Ulm / Aachen

Façade planning

planQuadrat, Karlsruhe

bffgmbh, Stuttgart

Loadbearing structure planning

BfB Büro für Baukonstruktion, Karlsruhe

Contaminant checks

Dr. Sedat SVB, Essen


The Federal Constitutional Court


COS Geoinformatik GbR, Ettlingen

Concept and overall management

Bundesbau Baden-Württemberg

Staatliches Hochbauamt Baden-Baden (the state construction

authority in Baden-Baden), Prof. Wolfgang Grether

Project director

Dagmar Menzenbach

Outside areas

West 8 urban design & landscape architecture B.V.,


Loadbearing structure plan inspection

Schumer + Kienzle, Karlsruhe

Schedule planning and supplementary management

THOST Projektmanagement, Pforzheim

Construction physics

Bayer Bauphysik Ingenieurgesellschaft, Fellbach

Technical controlling

fc.ingenieure GmbH, Stuttgart

Kunst am Bau project (building-specific art project)

Prof. Franz Ackermann, Berlin

Planning and implementation

Assem Architekten, Karlsruhe


Authors, architects, artists, photographers

in the order in which their contributions appear in this book

Andreas Voßkuhle

Prof. Dr. jur. Andreas Voßkuhle was

born in Detmold in 1963. From 1983 to

1989, he studied law at the Universität

Bayreuth and at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität,

Munich. In 1992,

he gained his doctorate in Munich.

Having taken the second state examination

in 1993, he served until 1994

as a senior research assistant at the

chair of public law, administrative law

concerning trade and industry and environmental

law in Augsburg. In 1998,

he received his postdoctorate at the

Universität Augsburg, and in 1999 he

was appointed as a professor of the

university and director of the Institut

für Staatswissenschaft und Rechtsphilosophie

(the institute of political

science and legal philosophy) at the

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg.

He became dean of the faculty of law,

a member of the university council

and finally, in April 2008, rector of

the university. One month later, he

was appointed as vice-president of

the Federal Constitutional Court. He

has since served as chairman of the

court’s second senate. In 2010, he

was appointed as president of this,

Germany’s highest court.

Barbara Hendricks

Dr. phil. Barbara Hendricks was born

in Kleve in 1952, and studied history

and social sciences in Bonn. She

has been a member of the SPD since

1972. From 1981 to 1990, she was

spokesperson for North Rhine-Westphalia’s

minister of finance. In 1989,

she became chairperson of the SPD

sub-district for the district of Kleve.

From 1990 to 2001, she was a member

of the party council, from 2001 to

2013 she was a member of the party’s

federal executive committee, and from

2007 to 2013, she was treasurer of the

federal SPD.

From 1991 to 1994, she worked

for the ministry of the environment,

regional planning and agriculture in

the state of North Rhine-Westphalia,

as head of the cross-border planning

department. Barbara Hendricks has

been a member of the Bundestag

since 1994. From 1998 to 2007, she

was parliamentary state secretary

to the federal minister of finance. In

2013, she was appointed as federal

minister for the Environment, Nature

Conservation, Building and Nuclear


Dieter Gosewinkel

Prof. Dr. phil. Dieter Gosewinkel was

born in Fürth/Odenwald in 1956, and

studied law and history at Freiburg im

Breisgau and at Geneva. After taking

the first state examination in law, he

gained his doctorate in history in 1990

with a biography of the Social Democrat

and legal expert Adolf Arndt. In

2000, he gained his professorship in

the department of jurisprudence at the

Freie Universität Berlin, with a thesis

on the history of laws relating to nationality

in Germany. He writes on the

subject of European legal history, and,

in particular, on the history of European

constitutions and of citizenship.

He is co-director of the Rule of Law

Center at the Social Science Research

Center Berlin, and an extraordinary

professor at the Freie Universität



Helmut Kerscher

Dr. jur. Helmut Kerscher was born in

Straubing/Bavaria in 1948. Between

1967 and 1969, he was a member of

the editorial staff for the Straubinger

Tagblatt newspaper. He subsequently

studied jurisprudence in Munich and

Freiburg im Breisgau. He received

his doctorate from the Universität

Hamburg, for a thesis on “reporting

of court proceedings and protection

of privacy”. Between 1975 and 1980,

he worked for the Badische Zeitung

newspaper. Between 1980 and 1986,

he was an analyst of legal/political

matters for the Süddeutsche Zeitung

in Munich.

From 1986 to 2010, he was

Karlsruhe correspondent for the SZ,

reporting especially on the Federal

Constitutional Court, the Federal Court

of Justice and the Federal Prosecutor’s

Office. In 2003, he was awarded

the press award of the German Bar

Association. Today, Kerscher is a

freelance journalist, and lives near


Heinrich Wefing

Dr. iur. Heinrich Wefing was born

in Darmstadt in 1965, and studied

jurisprudence and art history in Bonn

and Freiburg. In 1994, he gained his

doctorate with a thesis concerned with

state issues entitled “Parliamentary

architecture: on the self-presentation

of democracy through its buildings”.

In 1996, he joined the editorial staff

of the Feuilleton (the feature pages)

of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

In 1997, he became the Berlin culture

correspondent of the F.A.Z, switching

to San Francisco in 2002. In 2004, he

became office manager for the F.A.Z’s

Feuilleton section in Berlin. Since

2008, he has been a commentator on

legal policy matters and deputy head

of the department for politics at the

Hamburg weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT.

Publications by Heinrich Wefing

include Kulisse der Macht—Das

Berliner Kanzleramt (DVA 2001),

Gebrauchsanweisung für Kalifornien

(Piper 2005) and Der Fall Demjanjuk

(C.H. Beck 2011). He has received a

number of awards, including prizes

for criticism from the German federal

chamber of architects and the BDA.

Falk Jaeger

Prof. Dr.-Ing. (arch.) Falk Jaeger was

born in Ottweiler/Saar in 1950. He

studied architecture and art history

in Braunschweig, Stuttgart and

Tübingen, and gained his doctorate

at the TU Hannover. He has been

working as a freelance architecture

critic since 1976. From 1983 to 1988,

he was an assistant at the Institut für

Baugeschichte und Bauaufnahme

at the TU Berlin, and also lectured at

a number of other universities. From

1993 to 2000, he was holder of the

chair for architecture theory at the

TU Dresden. He lives in Berlin, and

works as a freelance publicist, lecturer,

curator and specialist journalist

in broadcast media and in the daily

and specialist press. He has received

a number of prizes, including the DAI-

Literaturpreis Baukultur (the literature

prize for architectural culture of the

Verband Deutscher Architekten- und

Ingenieurvereine, the Confederation

of German Architects’ and Engineers’

Associations) and the 1st prize for

architectural criticism of the German

federal chamber of architects.


Paul G. R. Baumgarten

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Paul G. R. Baumgarten

was born in Tilsit in 1900, and died in

Berlin in 1984. He studied architecture

at the TH Danzig and the TH Berlin-

Charlottenburg. He started working

in the studio of Paul Mebes and

Paul Emmerich in 1924. In 1929, he

became an independent architect. In

1934, he became head of the construction

department of Berlin’s refuse

collection agency. From 1938 to 1945,

he was head of the Berlin construction

department of Philipp Holzmann

AG. He opened his Berlin architecture

firm in 1946. In 1952, he took on a

professorship at the Hochschule für

Bildende Künste in Berlin.

In addition to numerous residential

and office buildings, a number

of Berlin buildings were constructed

based upon his designs, including

the concert hall of the HbK, the Hotel

am Zoo, the Eternit factory and the

BEWAG headquarters building. From

1961 to 1969, he oversaw the reconstruction

of the Reichstag building.

Michael Wilkens

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Michael Wilkens was

born in Wilhelmshaven in 1935. Following

a period of two years spent

traveling in Asia, he studied architecture

in Karlsruhe and in Berlin, completing

his studies with O. M. Ungers.

During and following his studies, he

spent nine years working with Prof.

Paul Baumgarten, on projects that

included the Federal Constitutional

Court project. In 1969, he moved

to Frankfurt, where he was initially

involved in the planning of the new

airport. In 1974, he was appointed as

professor of architecture theory at the

Gesamthochschule Kassel. He continued

to teach there until 2000. In 1978,

he founded the university’s “Stadt/

Bau für kostengünstigen Wohnungsbau”

(city/construction for affordable

housing construction) working group,

which changed its name to “Baufrösche”

(building frogs) for its 1981

contribution to the documenta urbana

in Kassel, and went on to implement

a number of residential projects plus

urban district planning, school and

kindergarten projects.

Arno Lederer

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. (arch.) Arno Lederer

was born in Stuttgart in 1947. He

studied at the TU Stuttgart and the

TU Wien (Vienna), graduating in 1976.

He worked for Ernst Gisel’s architecture

firm, based in Zürich, and for

the Berger Hauser Oed firm, based

in Tübingen. In 1985, he became

professor for construction and design

at the Fachhochschule für Technik in

Stuttgart. In 1990, he transferred to

the Universität Karlsruhe. Since 2005,

he has been head of the Institut für

Gebäudelehre und Entwerfen (the

institute for building and design) at the

faculty for architecture of the Universität


He founded an architectural firm

in Stuttgart in 1979. Jórunn Ragnarsdóttir

joined as a partner in 1985,

followed by Marc Oei in 1992. The

LRO firm is active mainly in the sector

of public and social construction in

Baden-Württemberg and in Hessen.


Günther Hoffmann

Dipl.-Ing. Günther Hoffmann was born

in 1949. He studied architecture at the

TU München (Munich). From 1977 to

1980, he ran an architectural firm in

Munich. Following an internship, he

spent the years between 1982 and

1994 working for the Finanzbauverwaltung

(the financial construction

agency) of Bavaria, and subsequently,

until 2009, he worked for Bavaria’s

Staatshochbauverwaltung (state

construction agency). Since 2009, he

has been head of the department for

construction, the construction industry

and federal buildings at the Federal

Ministry of Transport, Building and

Urban Development (today known as

the Federal Ministry for the Environment,

Nature Conservation, Building

and Nuclear Safety).

He is a lecturer at the Hochschule

Augsburg. From 1995 to 2010, he was

vice-president of Bavaria’s chamber of

architects. From 2001 to 2010, he was

vice-president of the federal chamber

of architects. In 1983, he was awarded

Bavaria’s BDA Preis, and in 1985, he

received the Deutscher Architekturpreis

recognition award.

Wolfgang Grether

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Wolfgang Grether was

born in 1950. After studying and gaining

a technical college qualification

in parallel with his professional activities,

he studied architecture at the TH

Karls ruhe. Having gained his degree,

he spent four years as a project head

for an architectural firm. He subsequently

completed an internship, qualifying

as a government architect. After

spending a period working as a head

of department for Karlsruhe’s state

construction authority, he graduated

from the Führungsakademie Baden-

Württemberg management college (in

1996–1997). In 1998, he became deputy

head of Pforzheim’s state property

and construction authority. In 2003, he

became head of the Freiburg office of

Baden-Württemberg’s state company

for property and construction. Since

2008, he has headed the state construction

authority in Baden-Baden. In

this capacity, he is the architect with

responsibility for the renovation of the

Federal Constitutional Court.

Grether has lectured at the Universität

Karlsruhe and at the Hochschule

für Technik Stuttgart, and is an

honorary professor of the faculty for

architecture at the Karlsruher Institut

für Technologie.

Adriaan Geuze

Prof. ir. Adriaan Geuze was born in

Dordrecht (NL) in 1960. He studied

landscape architecture at the Universität

Wageningen, and is co-founder

of the Rotterdam-based firm West 8

urban design & landscape architecture,

which now also has offices in

Opwijk (Belgium) and New York. He

lectures as a professor of architecture

and urban planning at a number of

institutions, including the Universität

Wageningen and the Harvard University

Graduate School of Design in

Cambridge, MA.

Geuze is a registered landscape

architect of the Dutch chamber of

architects (SBA), and an international

member of the American Society of

Landscape Architects (ASLA) and

the Ontario Association of Landscape

Architects (OALA).

In 1990, Geuze was awarded the

Prix de Rome. In 2008, he received

the Bijhouwer Award for Outstanding

Achievement in Landscape Architecture

and, in 2011, he received the

Mondriaan Fund’s Lifetime Achievement

Award in recognition of his life’s



Volker Albus

Volker Albus was born in 1949. From

1968 to 1976, he studied architecture

at the RWTH Aachen. In 1984, he began

work as a designer and exhibition

organizer. He also works as a publicist.

He has written essays and critical

pieces for a number of publications,

including the KUNSTZEITUNG and the

Wiener Standard. He is also the author

and editor of a number of books and

exhibition catalogs. Since 1994, Volker

Albus has been professor of product

design at the Staatliche Hochschule

für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe. Since

1998, he has designed and curated

exhibitions intended for world tours for

ifa (the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen,

or Institute for Foreign Relations)

in Stuttgart. In 2009, he founded the

“kkaarrlls” platform for the university,

jointly with Stefan Legner. He lives

and works in Frankfurt am Main and


Stephan Berg

Prof. Dr. (phil.) Stephan Berg was born

in Freiburg im Breisgau in 1959. He

studied German literature, English literature

and history in Tübingen, Berlin

and Freiburg, and gained his doctorate

in German literature. He worked

as a freelance journalist in the field of

the visual arts, writing for publications

including the Frankfurter Allgemeine

Zeitung and the Kunstforum International.

From 1990 to 2000, he was

director of the Kunstverein in Freiburg,

and, from 2001 to 2008, he was director

of the Kunstverein Hannover. Since

2008, he has been artistic director of

the Kunstmuseum Bonn. Since 2004,

he has lectured as an honorary professor

at the Hochschule der Künste

in Braunschweig.

Franz Ackermann

Prof. Franz Ackermann was born

in Neumarkt-Sankt Veit in 1963. He

studied painting at the Akademie der

Bildenden Künste in Munich from

1984 to 1988, and at the Hochschule

für Bildende Künste in Hamburg from

1989 to 1991, studying with Bernhard

Blume and Franz-Eberhard Walther.

He subsequently gained a DAAD

scholarship that enabled him to

spend a period living in Hong Kong.

The first public presentation of his art

took place in 1995 at the Kunstverein

Hamburg. A large number of exhibitions

across Europe and in North

America, in South America and in

Japan followed. He has been professor

of painting at the Kunstakademie

Karlsruhe in 2001. He lives and works

in Berlin.


Klaus Jan Philipp

Univ. Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Klaus Jan

Philipp was born in Erlangen in 1957.

He studied the history of art, history

and classical archaeology in Marburg

and Berlin (FU). In 1985, he gained

his doctorate in Marburg, writing his

thesis on the religious architecture

of the late middle ages. From 1988

to 1989, he developed the exhibition

“Revolutionsarchitektur” (Revolutionary

Architecture) at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum,

Frankfurt am Main.

From 1989 to 1996, he was an assistant

at the Institut für Architekturgeschichte

(the institute for architectural

history) at the Universität Stuttgart,

where he gained his postdoctorate in

1996 with his thesis Um 1800: Architekturtheorie

und Architekturkritik in

Deutschland (Circa 1800: architectural

theory and architectural criticism in

Germany). Following a deputy professorship

in Bonn and a university

lectureship in Stuttgart, he served as

professor of architectural history at the

Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg

from 2003 to 2008. Since 2008,

he has been professor in charge of

the Institut für Architekturgeschichte at

the Universität Stuttgart.

Stephan Baumann

Stephan Baumann, Dipl.-Ing. (arch.),

was born in Bad Hersfeld in 1963. He

studied architecture at the Universität

Karlsruhe (TH). After working with an

architecture firm, he was employed by

the department of descriptive geometry

at the Universität Karlsruhe from

1997 to 2000. From 2000 to 2012,

he was employed by the Institut für

Bildende Künste at the Universität

Karlsruhe (subsequently KIT: Karlsruher

Institut für Technologie) as a

lecturer on photography and video.

He has been working as an independent

architectural photographer since

1999. He lives and works in Karlsruhe.

Friederike von Rauch

was born in Freiburg in 1967. After

training as a silversmith in Kaufbeuren,

she studied Industrial Design at

the Universität der Künste in Berlin.

She is a photographic artist

whose highly reduced and concentrated

artworks and views of spaces and

landscapes have appeared in numerous

international exhibitions. She has

won a number of scholarships and

awards, and has published a number

of books. Her artworks are included in

many private and public art installations.

She lives and works in Berlin.

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