Dec 2016 - Stimulating educational buildings

No-nonsense between the icons

What is it between us and university buildings without a front door? The Science Campus in Leiden which opened last year is accessible via the existing building and will only get its own entrance during the second phase (which is currently being designed). The new Geo faculty in Utrecht shares an entrance with the existing TNO and the new GML building, with which it forms an ensemble on the campus of the Uithof. It doesn’t make both buildings less powerful though.

Geo is the head of the research cluster with TNO and GML; a prominent place that requires an additional emphasis in architecture. The robust façade - inspired by the users - is characteristic and looks like a rock formation. Horizontal articulated bands in various types of height and depth reinforce the layered character. The recessed window bands alternating the parapets seem to be carved and polished by the wind.

Especially compared to the multitude of iconic architecture at the Uithof the exterior of Geo looks modest and no-nonsense. Inside it is the other way around: a spectacular building high atrium, which turns a quarter on each floor, makes the interior very dynamic. This way we create double-height spaces on each office floor, where every department has a special place for meetings. These double high spaces are directly connected to each other via elegant stairways, that turn at every vide and provide an all-round experience of the staggered voids. The vide not only spatially connects all building parts but also facilitates easy meetings and exchange of knowledge between users. It might just be that you hop into a birthday party of a colleague three floors below.

Contractor Wijnen Bouw will finish construction of Geo before summer, so the building can be taken into use by professors, PhD students and students at the start of the new academic year in September 2017. Focused working on the flexible designed office floors or relaxed working in the public restaurant with a laptop and a cup of coffee, they can do leading research here together.

- Project Faculteit Geowetenschappen, Utrecht

More information: Hans Toornstra, Elza Heemskerk, Benno de Jong