Study in a new dimension

Location: Campus Westerberg, Barbarastraße, Osnabrück, Germany
Designer: Benthem Crouwel Architects; Architetto responsabile/Lead architect: Markus Sporer
Project: Hochschulcampus Osnabrück (college campus Osnabrück, Germany)
Team di progettazione/Project Team: Markus Sporer, Cornelius Wens, Sander Vijgen, Anna Gerlach, Joris Görling, Daniel Vlasveld, Carel Weber
Periodo di realizzazione/Time of construction: Concorso/Competition: August 2010; Inizio cantiere/Start construction: April 2012; Ultimazione/Completion: April 2014
Area intervento / Gross floor area: 7.280 m²
Committente/Client: Stiftung Fachhochschule Osnabrück
Strutture/Structural engineering: Kempen Krause Ingenieure GmbH, Aachen, Germany
Construction companies: AMB Anlagen - und Maschinenbau GmbH, Emlichheim, Germany; Peters Stahlbau, Itterbeck, Germany
Progettazione impiantistica / Building Technology: Enakon Wolfenbüttel GmbH, Hannover, Germany Mechanical services: IQ Haustechnik, Krefeld, Germany
Documentazione fotografica/Photos: Jens Kirchner
In the town plan for the university area in Osnabrück, a German town to the west of Hannover, the university campus, which will be completed in the next few years, is joined to a new multifunction centre (the Forum) that is open to the entire town.

In the town plan for the university area in Osnabrück, a German town to the west of Hannover, the university campus, which will be completed in the next few years, is joined to a new multifunction centre (the Forum) that is open to the entire town. Where the two structures physically join, between the two university and service centres, stands the first building in the project – a multipurpose complex that straddles the university and public service areas.

The shape of the building emphasises the strong relationship and interdependence with the outside spaces, that have been designed to house additional teaching and other open air activities. The entrance is easily recognized by cutting an entire corner of the building to mark the entrance and foyer. To be truthful, there are two entrance foyers: one inside that is entirely glazed and an outside one protected by a gigantic jutting roof, which is the projecting structure of the floors above.

It could be said that the building coincides with this large cut, a functional and logical response to the internal and external itineraries that cross over here, expressing the refinement of the structural design distinguished by this impressive overhanging feature. Four lengthways wall girders in lattice work steel, joined by a fifth stiffening head girder, form the skeleton of the projecting structure for about 40 meters, stayed at roof level and joined to the reinforced concrete structure behind, which acts as the counterweight with its 50 meter extension beyond the entrance metal structure, and aided by the floors, walls, roof and foundation structures.

The interior layout follows a simple and immediately understood scheme, to easily direct the flow of students and other users, and to exploit all the natural light in the classrooms, workrooms and restrooms.

A fundamental starting point in the project was redesigning the relationship between instruction and spaces where to study and exchange information. By developing new ways of joining and interacting, the instruction area has become a central point where to meet, link up and communicate. Free learning zones are becoming the driving heart behind the education. Nowadays, digital information is increasingly accessible and available anywhere and anytime, enabling people to link up and form flexible groups. The question now is to what extent the conventional configuration of a university layout can satisfy the current and future needs of these new cultural and behavioural models. With a flexible layout of furniture and worktops that become seats when required, workstations that become meeting areas, the newly designed spaces are an essential complement to the work carried out in the traditional classrooms.

In this modern constantly connected living geography the floors are inevitably connected as well. Special attention has been paid to the acoustics and natural light inside the building, together with carefully assessing the heat insulation: sound-dampening materials, care paid to the interlinking details between the structural elements, a multilayer façade that conceals the blinds with centralized lighting controls, all guarantee a pleasant and harmonious atmosphere inside the entire building.

Marina Cescon
Acciaio Arte Architettura 59