Rolex Learning Center / SANAA by Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

About a month ago the Rolex Learning Center designed by SANAA opened its doors and we feature it with a great video and some images they shared with us.

Now, Iwan Baan shows on his website this great photoset he made for March’s issue of Domus magazine, where we can see much more of the sloped interiors and some amazing images of the perforated curved +glass volume that gives form to the building.

Cite: "Rolex Learning Center / SANAA by Iwan Baan" 22 Mar 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Sep 2014. <>


      • Thumb up Thumb down +1

        Exactly!, Can you imagine when people will be walking arround? hundreds of colorfull pixels walking into the white conceptual landscape. Background and figure. It’s intentional and helps to define the image of the building. Don´t see it as a minus but a clear plus.
        Looking forward to see it in live action

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      The form certainly looks evocative but essentially, it is old wine in a new bottle. I’d like to see the pristine white surfaces (especially the floors) after the building has been in use after six months.

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Im confused. They designed an indoor space with a few tables for Rolex? The images are beautiful, but whats going on? I bet those 4″ (100MM) columns are bogus.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I don’t think the columns are bogus. SANAA used a similar slender, solid steel column at their Toledo Museum of Art. That things all glass except for the columns, so there’s no hidden structure.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Seems those barren, desolate hallways will really create some dynamic human interaction.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Less is more takes a fresh turn. Minimal and still dynamic in the way spaces flow into each other. mzuri kabisa.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    because i did not comment the previous documentation with the so called great video, i like now to comment both together:

    1. the idea was ambitious from the first moment on, something which i appreciated a lot, really a lot by seeing the space, the up and down, views which are always totally different, watching through and inside again.
    for everyone which don’t know: sanaa designed it by the competition on an area which was NOT consider for! a big risk and they won. at that time i knew just the H&DM project and i liked that one too, but the sanaa one: just incredible!
    BUT: I also was thinking about the outside space under the slopes. Is this space really a nice one? will people go underneath, because they love it (not because they are architects…)

    2. I wasn’t there which makes it quite difficult to argue. I could watch this “amazing” video, which was just disappointing to me. really. jesus, i was thinking now the camera guy is showing us the amazing space by going through the building (by having always different and never seen before views) but: nope! not a bit of the outer space! not a second. but: this space has an importance too, is it?
    And then the president of the institution like to telling us, this is a not just a learning center, no – here you also like to live, yep! a space to study. ok, let’s talk about it!

    a learning space, a space to study: I agree so far, by seeing the organic floating space. BUT HONESTLY: DO YOU WANT TO STUDY OR EVEN TO LIVE IN THIS TOTALLY WHITE AND DENTIST LIKE CLEAN SPACE?
    What the hell the architects wanna tell us here? The photos from Iwan are just great, especially the inside views. BUT JUST IN AN ARTISTIC WAY. This should be a place to study, to communicate, to share. Beside the interesting shape i wouldn’t be dare to go inside with dirty boots. is this really practically? NO colors. nothing. nada. grey (carpet) and white. some black chairs. some wooden furniture. that’s it. Is this a place where u like to study as a young guy? really? THE INTERIOR BY EVERYTHING BESIDES THE AMAZING SPACE IS EVERYTHING ELSE THAN A PLACE TO FEEL HOME (at least not for me).
    If here is anyone which can tell me the opposite, please let me know, i am very interested to know why!

    The outer space, the space under the slopes: ON one hand it hopefully takes time to see this courtyards then with colorful plants (i really hope!!!!!!), but the space underneath? what will happen here? the photo from Iwan shows a dead space. no grass in the world, no plants or whatever can be growing here, so we will have just stones here. and always i am seeing the dark concrete ceiling. so clear for me: this space was difficult for me from the first moment on, and nothing changed so far this opinion.

    function: well here is of course space for discussion. already let you know, that i am thinking that the furnitures are not functional at all for a learning center (more for a business center perhaps). And i do not have to say again , how nice the organic space will be by going through, BUT: how many space they really have to get function inside? wheelchairs?

    In german i would say: ein pups von den Architekten.

    Perhaps i see all this from a wrong point of view. Hearing “LEARNING CENTER” i am thinking about space like in a university. colorful, rough (like the project from OMA in the US – one of their best ones, Paul Rudolph, MVRDV, J.B.V. Artigas to mention a few), open to get a bit dirty after a while and nobody cares about it.
    Do i have a problem with japanese mentality? Or do the japaense have her some problems with the european or western mentality? Both?

    At the main door as also everywhere inside there will be a bunch of notices (i consume): PLEASE CONSIDER TO TAKE OUT YOUR SHOES! DO NOT SKATE. PLEASE HELP HANDICAPPED PEOPLE BY THEIR WHEELCHAIRS! BE QUITE!

    An ambitious project which we must see in real with some question marks.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      It was rather optimistic to think anyone will this whole comment, but from what i have gathered from a quick skim over it i would just like to say that yes, it is indeed white and rather curvy.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      The outerspace isn’t finished yet, and wont be till the end of the summer. They are heavily working on it at the moment, basically to access the building visitors have go through a path in the middle of the site building site.

      Another thing I would like to point out is that the photos are really overexposed, giving an impression that the building is Christmas white, which isn’t the case. To have a true impression of the building: (official site from the university)

      The building is full everyday till midnight, even saturdays & sundays. So it’s quite a success sofar, even if not everyone at the EPFL seems to be totally convinced by the building, which is natural, as it is almost an “experimental” building. However what it sure is that people prefer study in the Learning center then in a “traditional” library

      Even the slopes are nicely used by students thanks to the hundreds of (colorfull) poofs which can be found.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    It´s sad, I’m sure a doctor could prescribe someone not to visit such a building to avoid distress, anxiety, suicidal tendencies. Perhaps in a chaotic tropical context it might work, thinking of Acapulco´s old decadent downtown perhaps, but in sad Swiss suburb….

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Hem, Swiss sad suburb ? Hope you know the place and don’t just base your comment on the picture you’ve seen on some websites.

      It’s look a bit crapy like this but considering the great view on the alp, the fact that the lake is juste next to the campus and also maybe because the buildings are full of youngs people could maybe change a bit the way you look at it.

      This is publication pictures. It has to look so pure and white … Take it as it is.

      Btw, It’s called Rolex Learning center because rolex gave a lot of money for this (so much that they keep it secret) but you won’t see a single gold watch in this building.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    miss plan and section of this building to understand how it is very well organise without wall, with the floor as a separation tool to divide spaces and the fluidity inside. this building is a demonstration of what could be the heart of a campus. SANAA is maybe on the road of a prizker price. The Rolex learning center is a poem to the curve…

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    This is a truly delicate building that interacts with context. Beautiful spaces. It would have been great to have some people & sense of life in the pictures. I have the feeling these photos are too much like an excellent digital 3D-MAX result.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I have the imagination of Dali’s painting of the flowing clocks seeing this…Sanaa produces pieces of art, not architecture.
    His work is like a painting that does not need a context, you can place it anywhere. And he doesn’t even care about this fact. Just sad- the world goes artificial (and superficial)!
    I hope that architecture as a sign of identity and culture can survive

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I’m definitely getting an art vibe/ and while this ‘piece’ is very soothing & pristine, I’m not feeling life — just expansive sterile pockets of deadzones that might be lovely to see from this angle, but to experience? not sure… loving those mini stair risers tho — flow nicely.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    i think if it had some changes in ex-in material it would be more suitable for its function. but it’s a bit boring thing.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The building has a rectangular plan but appears to be more organic in shape because of the undulate of the roof and floor.The wavy lines and curved shape are inspired by the nature and the surrounding.I think this is good way to define a concept which can be convinced easily.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    i was there last a month ago and it was great!!!! experience
    yes on the pictures it looks white and desolate but now when people are the and colourful beanbag-chairs everywhere its just living….
    the spaces are great und argggh…. cant tell how great it is… you can spent the whole day just reading books or drinking coffe the and just the building entertains you so you wouldnt get bored..

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Some interior shots looks like 3D software ‘Global Illumination’ renderings with most of the shadings turned off, weird because these shots are real and not 3d renders.

Share your thoughts