Gebouw O is a design for a new auditoria building for the University of Antwerp that has been developed by the team of META/SW/Technum, in collaboration with West 8. The new multi-disciplinary building, located on the Drie Eiken campus in Wilrijk, will accommodate 8 auditoria (occupancy between 200 - 300 persons), and a series of specialised laboratories and research rooms.
One of the main ambitions of the building was to establish an identity within the campus, becoming its focal point, its heart. At first glance, this ambition is pursued through a careful analysis of the surroundings. According to this the campus site can be divided in three main different systems of urbanization. Running through the site is an existing thoroughfare, or ‘aorta’, that connects the 3 different urban conditions on the campus.
The mundane question of how Gebouw O would establish itself within this heterogeneous condition of the site has been raised throughout the development of the project. The incorporation of this route, or aorta, within our building and thus elevating the status of the building from mere object to urban connector for the whole campus, was the answer. The integration of the ‘aorta’ at an architectural level has been emphasized, on one side by maintaining the route in the building, with two entrances diagonally disposed, on the other side by achieving the effect of a closed floating volume, raised above a transparent and inviting, ground-related plinth. Each entrance, one on the cafeteria side and the other on the side of the urban grid, has its own foyer, and both are linked to each other by an atrium space.
One third of the building has been submerged in the ground while the remainder is raised above ground and rested on columns. With its spatial dynamism, the underside, or ‘belly’, of the first floor auditoria naturally forms the entrance foyer. The expression of this form lends the lobby functionality, but also a unique sense of identity in the architectural expression of the volume above. All the program of the building is organized around a central atrium that offers immediate legibility, acts as an orientation device and moreover contributes to enhance the visual connections among students. In the architecture of this building we recognise the increasingly important role that social interaction plays in the processing of information by providing a central meeting point, around which all other functions are organised, and to which all routes are drawn. The social aspect of learning is therefore encouraged so that a natural and horizontal transfer of information can occur.
Programme: 8 auditoria, 2 specialist laboratories, research room, copy room, parking for 230 bikes, foyer.
Competition: 2012, First prize