The past made visible in the present

Aachen is a mid-size city in Germany, located directly at the border with The Netherlands and Belgium, with a 5000-year history of settlement. One of the focal points in the heart of the city, aside from the famous cathedral, is the Elisenbrunnen which features a sulfur-rich healing fountain. The healing power of the many hot springs in Aachen was discovered and cultivated by the Romans and the city decided in 1819 to build a formal building to house the Elisenbrunnen. Designed by architects Johann Peter Cremer and Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the neo-classical building was completed in 1828.

Elisenbrunnen by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1828), adjacent to the pavilion.

Right next to the Elisenbrunnen is the the Elisengarten, a well-used small park. Originally conceived by Prussian landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné, the park underwent a redesign in 2008. The accompanying archeological excavation revealed historically significant building structures and artifacts from different periods, reaching back to Neothilic, Roman and Medieval times.

The Elisengarten, a small city park next to the Elisenbrunnen, features a new  pavilion
that showcases historic artefacts.
The ruins are encased with a glass wall and the stainless steel structure is open to the park.

A new 1,700 sf (160 sqm) oval-shaped stainless steel and glass open air pavilion showcases the underground ruins in an unpretentious and beautiful way. The design by local architectural firm kadawittarchitektur had been selected as the winning entry of a design competition and the structure was completed in 2013. It is part of a series of "archeological windows" that the City of Aachen has commissioned. The pavilion has become the centerpiece of the park and displays a sense of airiness and playfulness that pays respect to the ruins and makes them an integral and accessible piece of the park.

The outer envelope creates a beautiful interplay between light and shadow.

The outer envelope consists of a weave of diagonal stainless steel members that carry the roof while the inner layer is constructed of a thin clear glass enclosure with integrated opaque information panels. The visitor can walk in-between the inner and outer layer and learn about the history of the place and enjoy the view to here and now at the same time. While the pavilion appears more monolithic from the outside, the steel structure generates playful light and shadow effects from the inside. At night, the pavilion becomes a lit jewel box thanks to the star-like ceiling lights and illuminated ruins.

Opaque panels in the glass inform about the archeological artefacts.

The remarkable simplicity and restrained presence of the pavilion strikes the right balance between function and sculptural object. It is a refreshing example of architecture that connects the past with the present without denying the origin of the time it was built.

More information and images can be found here.

H.S.

Image Credits
Photo 1: H. Albers