De Hallen was the very first building to be constructed when the campus was first laid out. It’s a true utilitarian structure, a great combination of form and function. The representative curator and head of construction firm Stheeman remarked that ‘maybe women won’t think it’s attractive, but men will, because it’s so amazingly practical’.
When the decision was taken in 1961 to found Technische Hogeschool Twente (‘Twente Technical College’, THT), the biggest challenge was to build enough housing and study spaces for the students on a tight schedule. The housing came in the form of halls of residence, and – with no thought to architectural pretensions – the study areas were created in the Hallen. Lectures were also given in one of the other first-generation buildings, the Spiegel – back then the Bestuur en Beheergebouw (management and administration building).
The Hallen was a typical utility building that well deserved its name: the Hallen (the Halls). The departments of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering were temporarily housed there, with each department getting its own hall; the idea was that the building could be repurposed once new, permanent faculty buildings were completed.
Making an innovative architectural statement was the last thing on the minds of the designers of the Hallen. The building had to be cheap, it had to be ready as soon as possible, and above all it had to be flexible and functional. Of course, that didn’t mean that architects S.J. van Embden and J.L. Choisy didn’t spend a lot of time on their design. They created a state-of-the-art glass hall a full hectare in size, but for Choisy the building’s greatest quality was its well-defined structure, with strong lines like those of ‘the beams in a 16th-century house’. As he explained, ‘It’s not the façades themselves, but the columns placed outside the façades that form the logical completion of this “timeless” structure.’
The utilitarian building was divided into four halls, housing three departments: Hall A was dedicated to Chemistry, Hall C to Electrical engineering and Hall D to Mechanical Engineering. Hall B was the central connecting hall and housed the main entrance. Once the department-specific buildings were ready, Chemical Engineering moved into what is now The Gallery (formerly Langezijds), Electrical Engineering was established in Hogenkamp and Mechanical Engineering relocated to the Horst. This removed the Hallen’s main function, and the building was eventually demolished to make way for a new structure.
Nevertheless, if you keep your eyes open you can still find a few relics of the original building on campus. The façade of the central connecting hall, ‘Hall B’, today forms the façade of the entrance to Carré and the Waaier building. Another original piece of the Hallen, complete with outward-facing columns, is still making an impression at the back of Zilverling, facing the P2 car park. This ‘hall’ now houses several tutorial rooms, as well as the Creative Technology programme’s Smart Experience laboratory (SmartXp). Not to mention the Hallenweg, yet another reminder of this extraordinary, pioneering building.