Profile and history of BURG

Visionary ideas and design since 1915

Das Kornhaus auf dem Kunstcampus. Foto: Adrian Parvulescu

Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle has a distinctive profile in the German university landscape. Featuring two departments, Art and Design, BURG has offered excellent conditions for education and study since 1915. With over 1,000 students, it is one of the largest universities of art and design in Germany. Visionary ideas and design are the focus of its 20-plus disciplines of study, alongside the development of practical professional skills. The university’s studio and workshop facilities are thoroughly equipped for learning and BURG is part of an active network of research institutes, institutions, and companies. During the more than 100 years of its existence, BURG has developed in to a university of art and design that explores the interplay between practice and research. Students learn to think and work in an interdisciplinary manner from the very beginning as they navigate their way through the broad foundation programme. BURG’s two departments use this approach to combine continuity and consistent orientation to changing requirements.
Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle confers bachelor’s, master’s, and teaching degrees, as well as the traditional Diplom. Students can also complete a “Meister-schüler” (Master Class) course at BURG. In 2013, BURG received the right to confer doctorates in the design sciences. A faculty consisting of more than 50 professors and 60 academic staff offer young people with artistic talent a broad range of classes in art and theory. The university of art and design maintains partnerships with institutions in 20 European countries and a number of universities outside Europe. BURG is a member of the global Cumulus association of art universities and is also part of ELIA, the association of European art universities.


BURG has several workshops and studios with a wide range of equipment and expert staff. They cover the spectrum from the woodworking, porcelain and photography workshop to weaving and printing studios, the rapid prototyping lab, and a media centre. The university’s substantial material collection supports the transfer of knowledge with regard to materials and technology.
Burg Galerie im Volkspark, BURG’s own gallery space, showcases art and design on an area of 350 square metres. Located within easy access, the university gallery exhibits student works and those of artists who teach or have taught at the university.
With a collection of around 100,000 media, the BURG library is the most significant library dedicated to art and design of the 20th and 21st centuries in central Germany. Located in an award-winning building on the design campus completed in 2015, it is also the home of the extensive material collection of over 900 material samples.
Designhaus Halle is a hub for design and commerce, art and the market, teaching and entry into professional life, supporting students as they move from the university setting into their professions. As a business incubator, it provides offices under affordable conditions and a launching pad for BURG spin-offs and startups from the creative sector. Users will find counselling and support for business administration and legal issues there, as well as the opportunity to use BURG’s studios and workshops and become members of an organised network.
The University press of the BURG located on the design campus can fill orders for large-format materials using modern offset and digital processes. It is used for research and teaching projects and prints materials for the university’s public relations and administrative programmes. The university publishing house also has many publications printed there, including the yearbook of the BURG.
The textile studio integrated into Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle in 2014 supports interdisciplinary teaching and research in weaving, embroidery, sewing and dyeing. It also houses the screen-printing and weaving studio, which includes jacquard looms. In addition to supporting the comprehensive educational opportunities at BURG, textile studio staff also completes commercial orders for museum-quality textile restoration, for example.
Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle has its own daycare centre with room for 50 children ages 0 to six. Located in Halle Park, BurgKita follows a pedagogical concept developed in the university’s programme for play and learning design. The university and VHS Bildungswerk operate the creative kindergarten jointly.


Today’s BURG was born on 1 July 1915, when the architect Paul Thiersch became the director of the former school of the applied arts (1915-1928). He reformed the city of Halle’s school for craftsmen, creating a modern school of the applied arts with teaching and producing workshops and studios and specialist classes for artists, who were not bound by fixed teaching curricula. Thiersch oriented BURG on the objectives of the German Association of Craftsmen (Deutscher Werkbund) and the ideal of the master craftsmen who built medieval cathedrals. 
With the products of its workshops and specialist student collaboration on major decorating commissions, BURG became one of Germany’s most influential art schools.
When the national socialists came into power, the art school fell on hard times: teachers were made redundant and classes closed. But the centre for education in the crafts remained open and was re-organised after 1945.
Christened ‘University for Industrial Design Halle – Burg Giebichenstein’ in 1958, BURG received a status equal to that of a university. In the following decades, the university gained a reputation for being the most influential university of design in the GDR alongside the university of the arts in Berlin-Weißensee. In 1972, the restrictions on education in the fields of graphic design, painting, and sculpture at BURG were lifted, lifting the quality of the art education programme there.
After German reunification, the university was re-structured and its educational programme revised. Initially in the Design department and later in the Art department, media-orientated courses were set up. And the art (teaching degree) and art education courses have been offered since then. BURG celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015 with an extensive programme entitled BURG 100 featuring numerous exhibitions, events, and publications.