University College Howest, based in Flanders, Belgium, offers higher education to 5,600 full-time students, spread over four campuses. For its Digital Arts and Entertainment (DAE) curriculum, Howest decided to build a new campus in Kortrijk. DAE students are ‘technical artists’, bundling a set of technical and artistic skills, and are trained to work in media, advertising, product development or game design. The new campus, “The Level”, echoes the creative ambition of its students and teachers, and reflects their continuous quest to move up to the next level, in the game itself or in the quality of education. The campus houses a green key studio, a motion capture room, conference rooms, research venues, traditional classrooms and an incubator for start-up companies.
Upon entering the campus, visitors are drawn into the physical reality of first-person shooter game. Rough unpolished materials, level differences, complex circulation, overview points and the zenithal light of the atrium all contribute to the magic of this campus breathing creativity. The new, spectacular stairway in the atrium forms the heart of the building and connects all levels of the existing structure with the new volumes added. Complexity of the atrium was inspired by the etchings and drawings of Italian architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), who used Ancient Rome for the creation of his fantasy world. Today Piranesi is still a source of inspiration for 3D designers, even most recently in the Harry Potter movies where the stairs in the Hogwarts School clearly resemble the 'Carceri' series of Piranesi etchings.
From an educational point of view, the incubator is one of the main pillars of the university college. Located centrally in the building, the incubator will foster collaboration and cross-fertilization
between spin-offs, start-ups, established companies, students and teachers. Bringing students and professionals together in this campus perfectly illustrates how important knowledge sharing and cross-industry cooperation has become to be successful in today’s fast-changing 3D and multimedia landscape.
Triangular shapes are another feature of this new campus, and refer to the triangle that forms the basis of any 3D model. Triangles are reflected into the roof structure of the loft, the customer- designed, propeller-like lighting fixtures, the angular-shaped, fiber-like structure of the concrete stairway, encased with OSB boards.
Architectural design for the virtual world of gaming. The atmosphere, spatial complexity and surprising circulation subtly remind visitors that they are about to leave reality. On to the next level!
Construction: 2012 - 2013