Colourful connections

The HU University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands has gained a porous and interconnected new building from schmidt/hammer/lassen, as part of a project to ‘densify’ the school’s assets. Jack Wooler spoke to architect Pim Ijsendoorn about how the design plays with colour and connectivity and does more with less

Utrecht, the Netherlands, constructed to consolidate the faculty’s properties into one campus. Designed by architectural firm schmidt/hammer/lassen (SHL), the building takes shape as a 22,310 m2

T metal-clad

volume with staggered heights and a patched aluminium facade, and now houses eight institutes covering the university’s numerous educational disciplines. Before the project started, the university’s functions were spread across the city, comprising around 30 separate properties. These buildings varied from small to large, ranging from century-old listed buildings to 60s, 70s and 80s properties.

It was decided that a streamlining process was necessary to densify and modernise these faculties, and scale down the overall space used. To realise this, the university wanted all its educational facilities to be located centrally in just five buildings, and as such the new buildings would need to be deep-planned.

Along with the densification of the buildings themselves, the university also wanted to reduce the classroom schedule by a few hours to an 8am – 5pm day, and so the classrooms needed to go from a 40 per cent occupancy rate to over 65 per cent. This means that as well as having a reduced amount of available space inside the buildings, the square metres remaining is much more heavily used.

In this SHL-designed project in particular, more than 5,800 students, faculty and visitors need to move through the building’s

he new Heidelberglaan 15 building is the last of five to be finished at the HU University of Applied Sciences in

3,000 m2 footprint each day to gain access

to the more than 60 classrooms, 20 project group rooms, two lecture halls (seating 200 and 260 people respectively), and two smaller lecture halls (each seating 90 people), as well as its television studio and meeting hall. In the light of this, it was essential that the building’s connectivity be a major focus.

From the outside

The final instalment of the university’s consolidation rises eight floors above a newly developed courtyard, displaying a prominent bronze and golden facade of neutrally-coloured anodised aluminium around substantial areas of glazing. One colour ‘dissolves’ into the next to create what the architects have described as a “gentle patchwork effect.”

SHL wanted to differentiate the various institutes inside the building by using several colours across the building’s exterior, while keeping them connected within the same colour spectrum that is expressed through the cladding. Originally, the team looked at using eight colours on the facade, one for each institute. After some deliberation however, it was decided that it would be too hard to distinguish between that many shades, and just five were used.

The larger spaces inside the university, such as the television studio and the meeting centre, are clearly identifiable in this external cladding, adding an extra element of porosity to the project, besides the extensive glazing. To achieve this effect, the facade’s patched sequence of windows


The atrium is criss-crossed with a web of transparent white stairways made of perforated aluminium Images © Adam Mørk for Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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