Opening ceremony for the AWI Technical Centre “Rasmus Willumsen House”

Innovative technology lab on the Climate Campus Bremerhaven nearly complete
[19. October 2023] 

After more than four years under construction, today (19 October 2023) an opening ceremony was held for the newly built Technical Centre on the new Climate Campus in Bremerhaven. In future, the Technical Centre is where the Alfred Wegener Institute will develop, test and prepare new equipment for use on expeditions. The project received 18.5 million euros of funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal State of Bremen. In honour of Alfred Wegener’s last companion, the building was named after the Greenlander Rasmus Willumsen.

The AWI Technical Centre “Rasmus Willumsen House” will soon form the core of the new Climate Campus – on the former grounds of NORDSEE GmbH in Bremerhaven’s Klußmannstraße. Centrally located between the main channel and Handelshafen, it’s here that the AWI will develop and test new technologies for polar and deep-sea research. In addition to sufficient work space for ca. 40 technicians and researchers, it features an electronics lab, a seawater basin for testing instruments, cold chambers, a 19-metre-high tower for testing ice-core drills, and a wide range of workshops. The new building was named in honour of the Greenlander Rasmus Willumsen. In 1930 he accompanied Alfred Wegener on his last expedition to Greenland, a journey that would also claim his life.

Construction of the building was jointly financed by the BMBF and the Federal State of Bremen. It was designed by Cologne-based architects kister scheithauer gross (ksg).

“For us researchers, robots, ice-core drills, sensors and a range of other devices are like an extension of our human senses,” says Prof Antje Boetius, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). “In many regions of our planet, they’re what make it possible for us to do research and make new discoveries – whether it’s high in the atmosphere or far beneath the surface, in the ocean’s depths. That’s why it’s so important that we remain innovative when it comes to developing new tools. The better they are, the more precisely we can understand our world.”

“To pursue research in the Arctic and Antarctic, not to mention marine research, we need advanced, complex and dependable technologies,” adds Dr Karsten Wurr, Administrative Director of the AWI. “In future, the Technical Centre will allow us to test and continually improved these technologies. We wish to thank the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Free and Hanseatic City of Bremen, for making that possible with the new Technical Centre. The City of Bremerhaven also provided the land for the project, which is a perfect fit to our needs.”

“The AWI is Germany’s competence centre for polar and marine research. The coordination of the MOSAiC expedition to the Arctic was an impressive demonstration of its capabilities,” says Judith Pirscher, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. “Conducting essential research in such inhospitable and dangerous regions as the Arctic and Antarctic calls for unique and innovative technologies. And that’s precisely what the new Technical Centre will deliver – for instance, by providing lab rooms that can support experiments at temperatures down to minus 80 degrees Celsius. We at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research were pleased to support this new addition.”

“Just as in the past, researchers who explore the polar regions in the name of science have to work under extreme and hostile conditions. Without special-purpose equipment and infrastructure, these men and women couldn’t do it,” says Kathrin Moosdorf, Senator for Environment, Climate and Science, Federal State of Bremen. “Until now, the AWI has never had a dedicated building for testing equipment and complex logistics. The Technical Centre will change that. I’m very pleased that the Federal State of Bremen co-financed this project, contributing to the AWI’s technological innovativeness for marine and polar observation in the process.”

“The construction of the AWI Technical Centre is one of the first projects implemented in the shipyard quarter, a major initiative for sustainable urban development,” adds Melf Grantz, Lord Mayor of the City of Bremerhaven. “As the fact that the Climate Campus has been created in, and will grow in, the heart of the shipyard quarter shows: Climate research is a priority in Bremerhaven. I’m very pleased that, with the addition of the Technical Centre, the AWI’s work in Bremerhaven can be further improved; today’s opening ceremony is a further milestone for Bremerhaven’s importance as a City of Science.”

“In the Rasmus Willumsen House, the AWI will bring its unique scientific and technical expertise, and its innovation ecosystem, together under one roof,” says Prof Otmar Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. “In future, the equipment developed and tested here will make it possible to observe and explore the polar regions and deep sea in far greater detail. Accordingly, for us at Helmholtz, the Technical Centre represents a vital component for investigating the far-reaching impacts of climate change.”

“The AWI has made a statement, sending out a signal from an important, prominent location,” says Prof Johannes Kister from kister scheithauer gross.