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Aachen, Germany

The Toaster

A distinctive former power plant turned university lecture hall looks like it could make you breakfast. 

Not far from the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, in the center of RWTH Aachen University in Germany, standing behind the “SuperC,” is a strange, glossy white aluminum structure that glows bright orange at night.

The power plant, or heizkraftwerk, was built in the 1950s and heated the university’s buildings for a while, as part of a short-sighted idea to put heating plants in the middle of every North Rhine-Westphalia city in the ’50s.

The plant only saw about 100 hours of operation before sitting unused for years. In the 1990s, architects started exploring ideas for converting the building for more appropriate uses, given its location.

The structure, which had obtained a number of additions over its short history of operation, was finally redesigned in 2008 by IP Arch GmbH to meet the need for lecture halls and rooms for the growing university in the center of Aachen.

The building was finished in 2010, and it wasn’t long before students dubbed the distinctive former heating plant, once a loathed eyesore, “the Toaster,” for its aluminum facade that glows red at night. Students have apparently gone as far as to bring bread and a toaster with them to lectures, to enjoy toast in the toaster.

Know Before You Go

Visit at dusk when the LED lighting in the facade will transform the Heizkraftwerk into The Toaster.