Student Competition for the Transformation of the Historic Building Brückenkopf of the 1st Hammer Railway Bridge

How can the Brückenkopf be transformed today and in the future into a demonstrator, “ambassador,” laboratory, and place of experimentation for climate, resource, and structural change?

Under this guiding question was the task of the student competition at TU Darmstadt. The historic building Brückenkopf of the Hammer Railway Bridge, inaugurated in 1870, consists of distinctive guard towers and is now a protected monument. It is to be transformed into a self-sufficient flagship project for the State Garden Show 2026 in collaboration with TU Darmstadt.

Studentischer Wettbewerb zur Transformation des Baudenkmals Brückenkopf

The recognition of the students’ final projects

The recognition of the best works formed the highlight and the crowning conclusion of the project “Bridging the Gap – Unifying People and Planet” on February 8, 2024, at the CUBITY Atelier House of the Britta and Ulrich Findeisen Foundation for Art and Architecture in the municipality of Merzenich. On the day of the award ceremony, eight students presented their designs and concepts for the redevelopment of the Neuss Brückenkopf, on which they had been working since October 2023. In two rounds, the jury evaluated the students’ works, determined the placements, and honored the projects with prize money.

Cubity Preisverleihung

The task for the student competition for the transformation of the Brückenkopf

The students were tasked with developing a concept for the transformation of the Brückenkopf of the 1st Hammer Railway Bridge for the student competition, taking into account the four pillars of sustainability – ecology, economy, social aspects, and design quality. The project should be planned in such a way that it optimizes construction and operating costs, efficiently uses resources, and promotes community and quality of stay, while also integrating functionality and aesthetics. The guiding strategies of sustainability should be deliberately considered throughout all phases of the project, from the initial idea, through the formulation of the programming, architectural design, and construction, to the realization. The focus is on developing and implementing a minimally invasive, energetically self-sufficient, climate-neutral, usage-flexible, and lightweight prefabricated construction.

Innovative Teaching Concept “Research-Based Learning”

The focus here is on the close integration of research and teaching with intensive involvement of industry and planning partners (Network of Partners). At the same time, the “Research, Design and Build” model emphasizes practical relevance through the integration of external research partners, placing the entire planning and construction process in the context of research-relevant questions and innovative design. In the project “Bridging the Gap – Unifying People and Planet,” two coordinated working methods and time phases form the basic structure of the experimental teaching and research model “Research-Based Learning,” which has been individually developed.

Brückenkopf Neuss

Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize the creative process in architecture and design

In the first phase, students should use AI to develop innovative and unconventional ideas and document these in an AI journal. Subsequently, the students should create a “best-of” collage collection. The goal is not to find a single perfect idea initially, but to explore a variety of possibilities. AI can help view concepts from different perspectives and establish unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated elements. Artificial intelligence (AI), as a future technology, has the potential to revolutionize the creative process in architecture and design by offering new perspectives and approaches that go far beyond traditional methods. The ideas presented in this collage-like manner form the foundation for the following phases of the project, where the selected concepts will be developed further. Integrating AI at the beginning of the project offers the potential to broaden horizons and find innovative solutions for complex challenges.

Studenten dokumentieren Ideen in Artificial Intelligence Journal

From the AI best-of collage to the finished design in a traditional competition

In the second phase, students should further develop and refine a selected idea from the best-of collage for the competition and create a design from it. The competition culture in architecture in Germany has a long and successful tradition. The competition regulations of 1867, which essentially still apply today, aim for architects or artists to submit a design or idea for evaluation by an independent jury. This methodology is an effective way to maintain and collectively develop the building culture as a living democracy through the competition system. In the multi-stage process, all students of the design course start and develop project ideas, which are then distilled into a realizable project over several phases.

AI-Best-of-Collage für den Wettbewerb

The Jury

The prestigious jury, composed of experts, included the owner and initiator of the project Konrad Köster, lecturer at TU Darmstadt, Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Anett-Maud Joppien from TU Darmstadt, and Dipl.-Ing. Architect BDA Markus Schmale, Chairman of the Foundation for Art and Architecture Britta and Ulrich Findeisen and lecturer at TU Darmstadt. Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Anett-Maud Joppien chaired the jury. The jury awarded prizes to the students with a total value of €6,000, distributed among the prize groups.

Represented in the jury:

  • Konrad Köster – Initiator and Owner of Brückenkopf
  • Ing. Albert Dietz M. Arch. BDA – TU Darmstadt
  • Ing. Frank Hogeweg – Engineering Office for Structural Planning, Neuss
  • Dipl.-Ing. Anett-Maud Joppien – TU Darmstadt
  • Ing. Architect Karolin Kegel-Peper – TU Darmstadt M. Arch./Valencia Hugo Mompó – TU Darmstadt
  • Ing. Architect Andreas Pilot – TU Darmstadt
  • Ing. Architect BDA Markus Schmale – Chairman of the Board, Foundation for Art and Architecture Britta and Ulrich Findeisen – Lecturer at TU Darmstadt
  • Ing. Roland Tauber, Stadt Neuss – Lower Monument Authority

Studentisches Projekt Baudenkmal Brückenkopf

Assessment Criteria

The assessment criteria were derived from the task description, so not only the quality of the elaboration and design were evaluated, but also the degree of sustainability and the quality of the self-sufficiency concept, among other factors.

The assessment criteria were as follows::

  • Guiding Idea and “Message”
  • Quality of Self-Sufficiency Concept
  • Architectural Quality
  • Landscape Planning Quality
  • Functional Quality
  • Construction Quality
  • Degree of Sustainability
  • Degree and Coherence of Elaboration
  • Quality of Presentation

The Prizes

The awards were unanimously decided by the jury, with each recognition awarded a sum of €250 gross, the second prize group each receiving €750 gross, and the first prize group awarded a prize sum of €1,000 gross each (total gross amount €6,000). The Foundation for Art and Architecture Britta and Ulrich Findeisen, represented by Mr. Schmale, agreed to provide an additional prize sum of €1,000 due to the quality of the projects, increasing the previous prize sum from €5,000 gross (Köster contributing €3,000, Findeisen contributing €2,000) to the current total.


Unanimously, the jury decided to honor all the students’ works in three prize groups due to their high quality. During the award ceremony, Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Anett-Maud Joppien praised the quality of the students’ work.

The following works were recognized by the jury with €250 each:

  • Mateusz Cierpisz
  • Leon Lais

The following student works were awarded €750 each in prize group 2:

  • Ferdinand Berghof
  • Emil Friedrich

Due to their outstanding performance, the jury awarded the following works with prize group 1 (€1,000 prize money):

  • Ines Kretz
  • Jan Liebig
  • Emil Schumann
  • Ying Xie