Prestige project on the heath: 76 million euros for libeskind audimax

The spectacular central building of the University of Luneburg will probably cost a third more than planned. The university claims that this is not entirely true.

Spectacular but costly: the new central building for Leuphana from the brain of US architect Daniel Libeskind. Photo: dpa

The new central building of the University of Luneburg Leuphana will be a third more expensive than planned. Construction costs for the prestigious building by U.S. star architect Daniel Libeskind will rise from 57.7 to 76 million euros, according to Werner Nording, spokesman for Lower Saxony’s Ministry of Science. This is clear from the documents that the university sent to the state at the end of September. Nording thus confirmed a report in the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. A university spokesman would not confirm the figure.

Libeskind’s design envisages a silvery, bizarrely jagged structure towering over the campus to a height of 38 meters. It was not only the costs that were the subject of public debate from the outset, but also the business practices of the university management. It had given Libeskind the contract without a call for tenders.

Because the EU is paying part of the construction costs, the European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) looked into the project. In a report submitted to the state government in June, it cited numerous indications for accusations of embezzlement. The Stade public prosecutor’s office is investigating Vice President Holm Keller.

It was already clear in June that the university would not meet the time and cost schedule. The university management applied to the state for an extension of the construction period: Instead of October 2014, the building is not to be completed until August 2015. At that time, the project was to cost 7.5 million euros more than originally planned.

"Since then, this figure has not changed," assures Leuphana spokesman Henning Zuhlsdorff. The need for additional financing, he says, is due in part to the rise in construction costs since planning began. On this basis, the university expects net construction costs of 65 million euros. The fact that the ministry arrives at 76 million is due to the fact that it includes sales tax and thus creates "the false impression of an increased need for additional financing". By the end of the month, the university will present its financing concept to the responsible authorities.

Construction of the new central building began in May 2011. "Construction is progressing well," says Leuphana spokesman Zuhlsdorff. According to ministry spokesman Nording, another factor contributing to the cost increase is that the technical building equipment has been rescheduled. For this, the nacelle would have to be extended. In addition, the structural engineer had delivered his plans late. The state will now support the project with a project group.

As a foundation university, Leuphana can build on its own authority. Various public bodies are contributing to the costs: Lower Saxony is providing 21 million euros, the EU just under ten million. The city and district of Luneburg are contributing a total of seven million euros. The rest is to come from grants from the federal government, churches and sponsors, and from university funds. This Monday, the science committee of the state parliament will deal with the issue. GERNOT KNoDLER