Knowledge development is all about collaboration. That is why Dutch industry, government and educational establishments are joining forces in the so-called ‘triple helix’. This formula results in highly successful innovation environments that are vital to the Dutch economy. Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen is one such successful environment. With the opening of Center Court, designed by Ector Hoogstad Architects, another important step has been taken: the Campus now boasts a wide range of high-quality facilities in an inviting, accessible and representative complex.
Brightlands, DSM, Maastricht University, Chemelot Ventures and Chemelot Innovation & Learning Labs are the permanent occupants of the building, which is also open to the occupants of surrounding complexes and to visitors from elsewhere. A range of restaurants, congress and meeting rooms, laboratories, sports halls, offices and shops provide a wide range of the facilities the occupants are likely to need. Right beside the historical, centrally located laboratory building, and surrounding by wonderful trees, Ector Hoogstad Architects has designed a true campus building: inviting, transparent and open, with lines of sight from inside to outside and vice versa. It offers a pleasant atmosphere that encourages encounters – both planned and spontaneous – and exchanges of views and information. For that is the essence of this building: stimulating interaction and mutual inspiration between the various occupants.
Main entrances on the north and south sides offer direct access to the central hall, or ‘experience centre’, at the heart of the building. Arranged around the hall are catering facilities such as an espresso bar, campus restaurant and grand café. All three feature spacious terraces that enjoy ample sunlight. The lowest floor also includes a meeting area surrounded by a conference centre. Situated on the second floor is a multipurpose auditorium, which connects to a tall foyer that offers a view of the campus. All learning and research spaces of Maastricht University and CHILL are situated on the second and third floor, and the fourth floor houses the offices of the DSM Innovation Center. A multipurpose sports hall and visitor car park are situated below ground level. Design sessions with the various occupants of the building enabled the architect to discover all sorts of opportunities for mutual synergy, which have been translated into the scheme.
The building is composed of two contrasting volumes that interlock to symbolise the most important function of Center Court: the facilitation of connections and encounters. One volume consists of horizontal layers of various dark, stone-like materials, each with its own texture, recalling the mining history in the area. By contrast, the other volume is articulated vertically in brightly coloured metal and glass. To optimise accessibility and the relation with both the park and the surrounding campus structures, entrances are positioned on both the ground and first floors. In the latter case, spacious terraces create a raised ground plane that connects with the surroundings by means of broad flights of steps, which can also serve as tiered seating for outdoor events.
Under the supervision of Brink Groep (building management), integral collaboration was achieved with Adviesbureau Tielemans (engineering), Huygen (installation consultancy, DPA Cauberg Huygen, (building physics) and Hospitality Design (catering facilities). The ambitious planning schedule for this complex project has been achieved, with the structural design, draft design, definitive design and specifications completed in nine months. Ector Hoogstad Architects also designed the entire interior in close consultation with the various occupants: the fixed and moveable elements in all meeting rooms, conference centre and office areas for the campus management, and the complete laboratory fit-out.
Center Court is a sustainable building, with a three-star BREEAM-NL rating (Very Good). Energy consumption is low, in part thanks to the compact main form and installation of a low-temperature heating system with climate ceilings. Heat build-up behind the glazed southern façade is reduced by the integration of a ‘Dutch climate façade’, with ventilation between the interior solar shading and the glass. Where possible, recycled or renewable bio-based materials have been used. Spacious, bright and timeless, the building is carefully detailed with materials in a sustainable manner, ensuring a long lifespan. The varied mix of spaces, each with its own atmosphere, allows the building to be used in a highly flexible manner. Good daylight penetration, excellent air quality, pleasant acoustic conditions and comfortable room temperatures create a healthy and pleasant working environment.