Until four years ago, the HU University of Applied Sciences, a school founded in 1995 through the merger of several previously independent institutions, was spread across some 30 buildings in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The 22,310-square-metre Heidelberglaan 15 building is home to eight educational institutes in the economics, management, information communication and technology, and media and communication sectors.
An open learning environment
Arriving through the doors of the main entrance, a softly-lighted vertical space opens up with a web of stairways, escalators and indoor bridges crisscrossing overhead. The ground floor of the university is designed to erase the boundary between indoor and outdoor by putting educational activities on full display through full-length windows. This transparency is also incorporated into the design of two lecture halls on the ground floor. Seating 200 and 260 people respectively, the large lecture halls feature glass walls and a retractable wall similar to a garage door that can open up completely to allow connectivity with the main entrance hall. The ground floor is completed with a student-run café and other dining options, technical facilities on the south side of the floor, and informal meeting spaces with an abundance of built-in seating.
Moving up through the atrium, each of the university’s institutes has a dedicated student and faculty centre within the building, and they are spread out among the top six floors. The centres serve as the beating heart of each department and include institute-specific space and facilities for staff and students to meet and cross paths.
Also placed throughout the building are more than 60 classrooms, two smaller lecture halls that each seat 90 people, and 20 project group rooms, all of which are shared across institutes. Timber boxes placed along the central atrium are concentration workspaces fit for one or two people to meet or study.
Connecting with color
The white, off-white and timber color scheme of the university’s interior is accented with a pop of chartreuse that lines the three escalators that transverse the atrium. Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s creative use of color is also demonstrated on the exterior façade that features neutrally-colored anodized aluminium cladding, with one color dissolving into the next to cre-ate a gentle patchwork effect.
The exterior and interior are also linked by the moiré pattern of the alumimium cladding that can be found not only on the exterior façade, but also on the internal staircases. The perforation on the staircases play a role in the acoustics of the space, and beneath them are sound absorption materials that dampen the noise made by the thousands of people that use the building daily. Atop the building are green roof terraces that provide a relaxing outdoor respite for students, faculty and visitors alike.