A place of Exchange, of Innovative Teaching and Learning and of Development The name evokes longing and although the name Oasis is chiefly a play on words, the architecture of the new medical library of the Heinrich Heine University and the University Clinic in Dusseldorf demonstrates clear similarities with a fertile spot in the desert. Not through its form but through its concept; the brief was to design a space for enthusiastic learning; a place of exchange, of innovative teaching and learning and of development. The initial letters of these concepts in German together form the word O.A.S.E. – oasis. In less than two and a half years of design and construction we managed to create a landmark on the campus of university in the North Rhine Westphalian capital. The new medical library is part of the 2030 Master Plan to reorganise the 14 hectare university campus in the Wersten district of the city. Constant expansion of the university over the past few decades led to an extremely heterogeneous appearance. New identification points are required; a lighthouse project for innovative teaching and learning, for example.
New Points of Attraction and Identification
The Oasis is such a point of attraction; visible from a great distance, it is 38 m tall, has a very unusual façade structure and a gleaming white skin. It projects unequivocally out of its rather monotonous grey surroundings. The external appearance of the solid structure reflects the library’s specialist topic; it is the architectural expression of the capillary system. This idea is further reflected in the smooth, white façade. Organically shaped glass mosaic tiles linked by glass strips spread like a network over the slender cube and lend the structure its unmistakeable shape. This dynamic is reflected in the interior design through the flowing open spatial structure. Along with the obligatory library facilities such as the reading and lending areas, work and study rooms, a cafeteria and generous public and exhibition areas are arranged on the eight floors above ground level. The various library, study and learning rooms are stacked on top of one another and are accessed via a cylindrical lift and staircase core. The service core is diagonally opposite as are the document lounges and the toilets.
Stacked Library Functions
The ground floor of the library has been designed as a double-height space with a suspended mezzanine floor. The café, the cafeteria counter and the large lecturetheatre are directly connected to the entrance foyer that houses the information desk and the electronic library security gate. The mezzanine offers a conference space with a direct view onto the hustle and bustle of the café below through a glass wall. The specialist medical and dental library rooms along with study rooms of various sizes are organised on levels 1 to 4. Digital whiteboards in the study rooms permit the most up-to-date interactive communication and data exchange. A specially fitted out parent-child study room is reinforces the user-friendly aspects of the concept. Learning lounges are arranged freely in the central zones of each floor reflecting the easy transition between geometric and organic forms in keeping with our intention to make this a library to be experienced and not just used. All desks are equipped with WLAN and power sockets and half of these are additionally fitted with fixed LAN sockets.
The centrepiece of the library is on the fourth floor – the borrowing desk – we fulfilled the University’s request for a state of the art issue and return system with automatic sorting of returned books. Also on this floor are an e-learning room with 30 computer desks, another small cafeteria and offices for library staff. Whereas the lower floors are only accessible via the staircase and lifts, open internal stairways lead to the upper library floors where the bookshelves are laid out alternating with open-plan reading and working areas and separate group study rooms. In keeping with the concept as a whole, the areas become quieter and quieter as one moves upwards through the building and the atmosphere becomes ever more conducive to concentrated working.
Level 7 is, like the ground floor, a double-height storey with a suspended mezzanine level providing further individual study areas and chill out zones. The uppermost floor of the Oasis is a roof terrace that affords students clear views of the entire university campus. The basement has been designed to house the technical functions including the cloakrooms and toilets for the exhibition areas on the ground floor.
Facade structure as Starting Point for the Interior Design
The interior design was conceived and realised together with the Silvia Pappa_UKW Innenarchitekten working group. The quality of the fittings reflects the architectural aspects of the spaces. The expressive cubature of the building, the free-flowing forms and fabric of the façade require a fitting response in the design of the interior.