During the festive presentation of the Architectenweb Awards 2023, on Wednesday evening, 8 November, at the Keilepand in Rotterdam, the ITC faculty, University of Twente, was awarded School Building of the Year 2023. The education building was designed by Civic Architects, VDNDP, Studio Groen+Schild and DS Landscape Architects.
The ITC faculty has found a new home on the university campus in Enschede in a former laboratory building. The shell is no less than 220 metres long, 38 metres deep, and has a low ground floor and a high floor. The main intervention in the transformation is the addition of four atriums, cut into the structure, which provide greenery, fresh air and daylight.
One of the atria also forms the new entrance, in the middle of the building. Behind it is the spacious social heart, including a grandstand staircase and restaurant. All spaces in the building have a view of greenery. The concrete and steel shell is visible, including traces of use and new saw cuts. Oak facades and bamboo floorboards add a warm tone.
The high first floor has a raised floor that incorporates all installations. In this way, the lower ground floor retained its spaciousness. With choices as strategic as they are elegant, the design team has transformed the existing laboratory building into a beautiful educational environment that also manages to reflect the character of the programme.
The Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) faculty is part of the University of Twente and is located on the Drienerlo campus in Enschede. At the start of the project, the university made an important choice. The former laboratory building from 1972, designed by Choisy and Van Embden, was to be preserved and transformed. The as much as 220 metres long and 38 metres deep building had a low ground floor and a very high first floor. These features made transformation challenging.
In their design, Civic Architects, VDNDP, Studio Groen+Schild and DS Landscape Architects focused on creating greenery, light and space. The key decision in doing so was to cut out four atriums in the building. This initiated a decisive design intervention that brought light, air and greenery deep into the building.
The jury was impressed by the clarity and effectiveness of that intervention. The addition of the atriums gave the long and deep building a pleasant size and scale inside. The teaching spaces and offices are now logically organised around the atriums. The atria themselves feature different kinds of gardens. Rainwater falling on the roof is visibly fed into the gardens via flexible plastic hoses, something that suits a geo faculty well.
One of the atriums acts as a new entrance. By slightly receding the building façade here, the green garden around the building is drawn in. Inside, wide stairs lead up to the high first floor. By designing the stairs extra wide, the design team was able to add something that was not part of the brief: an auditorium. Meanwhile, this hybrid of stairs and auditorium has been used several times by the faculty for meetings. Around the entrance, the restaurant and study centre have been given a place. This is the central meeting place in the building.
During the transformation, many original parts of the laboratory building were left in sight, such as the concrete and steel structures. This includes traces of modifications, such as saw cuts. Atriums contain 'crazy' balconies; structural elements that could be spared from the old building. Such elements nuance the rational structure of the building and make it very human, the jury thinks.
The down-to-earth approach has continued into the interior, which uses a lot of wood, but also steel partitions that have been left untreated, have an interesting patina and are also virtually maintenance-free. The design team has continued to design, the jury observed. Everything has been thought through. And the clever thing is that the whole has become much more than the sum of its parts.
The high first floor has a 70 cm high floor in which all installations are housed. This allows maximum use to be made of the free height on the ground floor. The raised floor also acts as a plenum in the building, blowing fresh air evenly throughout.
The façade of the laboratory building was fitted with polyester slats. These turned out to be still good and were reused after cleaning. A few extra slats were required on the front facade. The supplier of the original slats was still able to make them.
In this project, architecture and sustainability have become interlinked stories, according to the jury. Thanks to the ingenuity and attention of the design team, a challenging shell was transformed into a particularly pleasant educational environment. The major interventions made in the process, such as sawing out the atriums, turned out very well.
In the School Building of the Year category, the jury nominated five projects. Besides the winners Faculty of ITC, University of Twente, (Civic Architects, VDNDP, Studio Groen+Schild and DS Landschapsarchitecten) these were Groninger Buitenenschool (De Unie Architects), Second Life for school De Meppel (Bureau Kroner), Het Open Venster (BDG Architects) and LAB42, UvA Science Park, (Benthem Crouwel Architects).
This year's jury consisted of Rosalie de Boer (Synchroon), Gianni Cito (Moke Architects), Barend Koolhaas (Studio Barend Koolhaas), Eric van Noord (de Architekten Cie.), Saskia Oranje (DOOR architects) and Abbie Steinhauser (a.o. deMunnik-deJong-Steinhauser). The entries for the School Building of the Year 2023 award were judged on social relevance, craftsmanship, innovation and sustainability.