The Department of Education (FE) forms the westerly closure of the ‘kashba-zone’ of the Uithof. In this hundred-metre-wide strip, buildings bunch-up close together with patios and rooflights providing daylight penetration.
In the FE certain historical landscape elements, such as a watercourse and cycle-paths and footpaths are retained, by largely raising up the building and constructing a regular grid of columns. These columns sometimes straddle the watercourse and the paths and also give the building stability. The open space under the building is used for slow traffic, houses the entrance lobby and provides space for a bicycle park and for wheelchair users. Here daylight is provided by three patios.
The department consists of three sections each with its own sphere: the Archimedes teachers training college, the Theo Thijssen Academy and the Seminary for Remedial Education. To obtain flexibility we designed two levels: the lower three levels house the general amenities and the floors above are so-called ‘standard floors’. At this level the solution lies in zoning; each floor has a tripartite configuration: flexible, deep elevation zones with in between a wide zone housing the stairs, lifts, toilets and kitchenette, and in which there is room for seating, study areas, information desks and meeting places. Small voids ensure contact between the different levels and prevent the emergence of little isolated realms. The middle zone is the place where the various users can set their own stamp on the building.
The colourful west facade gives the HU a face towards the city, makes the building scale-less and abstract, while also alluding to the speed of the traffic racing past. The facade is an expression of the occupants and their diverse activities, a metaphor for the HU’s multifaceted community.
With its colourful facade, the Education Department of the Utrecht University is a remarkable appearance on the University Campus. The new building offers the diverse University community flexibility and space to meet one another as well as opportunities to create their own atmosphere. The landscape has been integrated playfully into the building.