Bockenheim Campus of the Goethe University

The Johann Wolfgang Goethe University was founded in 1914 and has traditionally been located in the Frankfurt district of Bockenheim, which is just west of the Westend and north of the fairgrounds.

They call it a campus, but it is more like just a part of the city that has a lot of buildings belonging to the university. You won’t find much in the way of parks and greenery here.

Bockenheim Campus, 2004

Lots of distinguished people have studied here, including yours truly.
(You’d think they’d at least put up a plaque or something, but no…)

When I was a student here in the 1970s, the Bockenheim Campus was already overcrowded, and for the rest of the 20th century crowding only got worse as the university expanded.

Now the university has two new campuses, the Riedberg Campus for the natural sciences and the Westend Campus for the humanities. Construction is still underway at both of these, but many of the university’s faculties and institutes have already moved there.

Jügelbau after renovation, 2020

This building, the Jügelbau, dates from 1906 and was known as the main building (Hauptgebäude) of the Goethe University from 1914 to 2012. Since then, it has been renovated and now belongs to the Senckenberg Society for Natural Research, which runs the adjoining Natural History Museum. The inscription above the main entrance now reads “Senckenberg” instead of “Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität”.

Old Physics Building after renovation, 2020

The Old Physics Building on Robert-Mayer-Straße has also been renovated and now also belongs to the Senckenberg Society.

Across the street from the Old Physics Building, where the AfE-Tower used to be, there is now a construction site where three commercial buildings are being built, called One Forty West, 99 West and 21 West.

Observatory (Sternwarte) in 2004, 2014 and 2020

At the time, this seemed like a fine place for an observatory: on a dark street at the edge of Frankfurt, at the top of the new physics building of the newly-founded university.

A century later the city lights have long since destroyed any chance of doing serious astronomical observations from here, and the once-new physics building is now the old physics building, which stood empty for several years after the Physics Department moved up to the new Riedberg Campus.

As long as the building was open, the young scientists of the Physikalischer Verein went on presenting entertaining, high-quality lectures and demonstrations for the general public. I went to several of these in earlier decades, one for a total eclipse of the moon and others to have a look at Jupiter and other planets through the telescope. Also I can remember one such evening when it was so foggy that nothing was visible except the lights at the top of the nearby Messeturm (Trade Fair Tower), 500 metres to the south. Unfazed, the lecturer pointed the telescope towards the tower and gave an interesting presentation on the workings of the telescope.

Entrance to the subway, 2020

One thing that hasn’t changed on the Bockenheim Campus is this subway entrance, which is made to look like a tram car bursting up through the pavement.

My photos in this post are from 2004, 2014 and 2020. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on the city of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
See more posts on European universities.

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