A magnificent piece of architecture bridges tradition and innovation in the second-largest baroque palace in Europe. The completion of the new Study and Conference Center in the disused boiler room and coal cellar of Mannheim Palace leaves Mannheim Business School (MBS), the umbrella organization for management education at the University of Mannheim, Germany, with not only a spectacular structure, but also the basis for further growth. Edith Sitzmann, Minister of Finance of the State of Baden-Württemberg, officially relinquished the building to MBS in a ceremony attended by business, scientific and political personalities.
For MBS President Professor Jens Wüstemann, the approximately 1,700-square-meter building, which took two years to complete, will serve a pivotal role in the future development of the institution. “Our new Study and Conference Center will be the home of excellence, innovation and inspiration,” stressed Wüstemann. “Here, we want to develop a didactic approach that is based on close collaboration and teamwork, and that takes into account the enormous challenges of digitization.” Technical challenges have been met through extensive collaboration with SAP and Microsoft, so that digitization is no longer an abstract concept to MBS students, but rather an actual and tangible element of the courses.
The beauty of this building is that, although it is built in a cellar, MBS participants will not be learning and working in isolation from university life. On the contrary, the impressive glass façade of the MBS Study and Conference Center – with its two semicircular lecture halls, an additional flexible conference area, 10 breakout rooms and a large foyer – looks out on the palace garden at the back of the west wing. “An old coal cellar is turned into a landscaped project in the garden of Mannheim Palace,” stresses Professor Michael Schumacher, the architect whose firm schneider+schumacher has already successfully completed the subterranean extension of Frankfurt's renowned Städel Museum, a very similar project. “Together with the historic palace, the facility, which extends into the existing garden, forms a striking new unit that simultaneously symbolizes the preservation and respect for tradition, the significance of innovation and the drive to expand knowledge,” adds Schumacher.
The overall cost of the new MBS Study and Conference Center amounted to nine million euro. The project was completely financed by MBS, which has received the right to use the facility for 20 years with the option for an additional 10 years, after which it will revert to the University of Mannheim.