Architects: Rudy Uytenhaak and Marco Romano
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Completion date: June 2009
Client: University of Amsterdam
Type: Faculty building
Area: 34,000 sqm
Photographer: Pieter Kers
Amsterdam Faculty of Science
Unity in diversity
The new building for the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam is the product of a unique collaboration between the architecture bureaus Architecture Studio HH (section A and renovation of buildings), Meyer and Van Schooten Architects (section B) and Rudy Uytenhaak Architecture Bureau (sections C and D, and coordinating architect).
The university’s ambition to create a large, welcoming and above all individualistic and differentiated building was the main reason for the selection in 2001 of the three architects following an international competition that was won by the Uytenhaak bureau. The basic principle for the design of the complex of buildings is the encounter and exchange between all parts of the faculty. This is reflected in the motto of the design: ‘the articulation of interaction’.
The new faculty building, which houses an extensive complex of teaching areas, general facilities, offices and laboratories, forms the heart of the Amsterdam Science Park, which will incorporate a number of science-related businesses in addition to the university.
Building interwoven with structure of Science Park
The new Faculty of Science building stands at right angles to the main structure of the urban development plan, so emphasising the building’s central position in the Science Park. The building is raised up above open ‘polder strips’, allowing the public space to be freely extended and interweaving the faculty building with the structure of the Science Park.
The two semi-enclosed inner courtyards, with the entrance hall between them, form a public space that connects the two ‘polder strips’. Sections A, B and D, which mainly offer premises for laboratories, each have individual identities. The elongated, ‘floating’ section C, where the offices are located, connects these sections and makes the building a unified whole, while also giving it a certain monumental quality.
Section D, laboratories, teaching and offices
Exciting contrast between offices and laboratories
Section D is one of the three laboratory buildings that are clustered around the central office wing. This section houses various types of laboratories, such as biology, chemistry and physics labs, with the latter in particular complying with strict anti-vibration specifications. The area also provides the continuous route that runs from the main entrance over the first floor to the adjacent practical building. A number of teaching areas are located along this route. From the publicly accessible hall on the first floor there are views of the 65 metre long and 9 metre high physics-hall, which has been specially designed for large-scale physics experiments.
Like the other sections, this laboratory building is separated from the office wing by a characteristic open space. In this sunlit area the combination of the light, stylised office building on one side forms an exciting contrast with the robust technical laboratory building on the other. Unexpected diagonal sightlines are created by the differences in the heights of the storeys on opposite sides of the open area. The two sides are connected by a spectacular zigzag stairway, which is hung entirely from the office building to minimise vibrations. The interior of this section is also characterised by contrast. The walkways have a deep blue basic colour overlaid with light birch wood panelling. The corridor ceiling is formed by installations that are kept visible, so emphasising the technical nature of the building. The labs, in contrast, are light in colour and designed for functionality and flexibility. The detailing of the facade is completely smooth. In combination with the polyester concrete panels with black natural stone that are used, this gives the building a solid, monolithic appearance. Thanks to the reflective glass strips and glass blocks that are also added to the polyester concrete, the atmosphere changes according to the angle of the sunlight. The serious character is broken up by the playful leaps of the horizontal bands.
Section D, like the other three sections, has been given a completely individual character. The fact that the Faculty of Science is experienced as a unified whole is one of the qualities that make this building unique.