Student Apartments
© Walter Mair

Student Apartments

Durisch + Nolli Architetti as Architects

The major goal of the project, defined by the client, the student Mentor Foundation Lucerne, was the construction of a student-residence with a rational layout at an economical price. As result of an architectural competition held in 2007, the jury awarded the first prize to the project by Durisch + Nolli Architects and commissioned the office with the planning of the building. The competition site, a plot of land for public use, is located between a residential area and a mainly commercial area. The competition program plans to build the student-apartments instead of the existing buildings for the staff of the senior residence, which already resides in individual dwellings.


The specific task of the project was the careful insertion of 280 rooms for students, divided in apartments of different sizes according to a mix defined by the customer, paying attention to the specific requirements dictated by modern student accommodation standard and the integration of the new building into the neighbourhood.


SITE PLAN The location is an east facing slope in a public park with the largest senior residence of the city, located near the southern boundary of Lucerne, near the old brewery Eichhof, between a residential area and a mainly commercial zone, bordering the main traffic arteries.


The small volumes and the uniformity of the buildings as the size of the parcels characterize the residential area. This middle-class residential neighbourhood was built since the 1920s. The urban residences of that era are normally characterized by a very clear typology, compact volumes with three floors on a surface of about 12 x 12 meters. The vertical and horizontal development of the modular building allows an adaptation to the topography and the adjustment of the building volume to the program; also allows a limitation of the height of the building in relation to the residential neighbourhood.


MODULARITY The new construction is built in a complex modular form. The size of the building is structured in the way to assume the module of the existing houses in the district: prisms with an area of about 12 x 12meters, lined up like dominoes. The single modular element is based on the size of a room of approximately 13m2 that also corresponds to the constructive structure of the building. A major problem was to insert a volume of important dimensions in the context of a sensitive residential neighbourhood of private homes, without being excessively invasive, resulting in appeals during construction approval. The result is a fully modular construction, based on the module for a student room, which is about the size of the existing rooms in the homes of the neighbourhood.


Assembling 9 of these micro modules of 3.80 x 3.80 m, you get a macro module of about 12 x 12 m. With this basic module, which corresponds perfectly to the modularity and the modulation of the residential area, was composed the whole building complex, forming the large volume in a horizontal as in a vertical way. The structure follows strictly the modularity based on a student room, without any exception. This very dense structure, seemingly rigid, actually offers great flexibility. In correspondence with the repetitive structure, other standardized elements such as stairs, doors, kitchens, bathrooms and cupboards were produced in series.


TYOLOGIES The modular structure provides a great flexibility in the layout of the apartments and offers a great typological diversity. Like dominos in a game (the motto of the competition project was: DOMINO) the apartments are arranged on eight different levels with the stairways as the only fixed points. The advantage of this concept is a great diversity of the apartments, a large density and nearly unlimited flexibility in adapting the different types of flats according to the required mix of apartments. The 280 rooms for students are distributed in 86 apartments of various sizes and types, from studios for one person up to apartments for 5 people.


FAÇADE Corresponding to the floor plan also the facade is modular: the regular grid is shown by to the particular geometry of the shading elements in concrete with three main typologies of the facade: module of a student room, module of the living room and the closed module. The element of the living room is fully glazed to let in plenty of natural light, while the student rooms have a window with a filled balustrade at table height and a closed side part that allows high flexibility for the individual disposition of the furniture. For the closed element was chosen a glass mosaic that reflects the green of the park. A grid of shading elements in precast concrete structures and protects the facade, representing the absolute modularity of the building. The green roof completes the integration of the new building into the park. The building follows the standard of low-cost-social-housing and is constructed according to the Swiss Sustainability Standard Minergie®.


ACCESS AND SPACE OUTDOOR The main access to the residential complex for students is from Steinhofstrasse, where some parking spaces are reserved for visitors, the administration and for the sustainable mobility (car sharing). According to the concept of the Student Mentor Foundation the apartments could be rent at prices about 20% lower than market prices, for students with limited economic opportunities and without a car. For this reason the building integrates a wide garage for 250 bikes on two levels. Towards the Steinhofstrasse, near the main access to the area, is placed a foyer with the administration office and a multipurpose room. The access to the apartments of the students is done through eight entrances, each designed in a different colour. A path that widens in the inner courtyard, creating a central square, connects these entrances. Contrasting the precision and regularity of the structure, this external path is sinuous, like a meandering stream, offering a valuable meeting place outdoor.


A new staircase on the south side connects the Eichhofpark with the existing public walkways, while another staircase leads directly from the courtyard of the new building complex towards the centre and the cafeteria of the senior residence. The result is a new meeting place for different generations and social groups, for students, senior citizens and local residents.


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