With the New University Building, the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam wanted to create a new type of education building. As the heart of the renewed campus, the building is designed as a meeting point for the various “population groups” within the university, with space for education and research, as well as for culture and recreation. The way to achieve this was not clear at the outset. Indeed, the exact program and users were not fully determined until the building was finished. This lack of specificity was a powerful argument in the design, which is geared to keeping options open and facilitating flexible use.
PUBLIC SQUARE – At the center of the building is a spacious atrium, which has more the character of an urban square than an interior. Most public functions are grouped around this atrium, including a café, multimedia center, and lecture theaters, which will also be used for dramatic performances and film screenings. The lower four floors are accessed via a series of bamboo stairs and galleries. The broad foot of the stairs can double as a stage for performances and gatherings. The auditoriums for lectures, theater performances, and film screenings are grouped in one volume that can function independently, with the atrium serving as a foyer. Lighting can be adapted so that only the lower portion of the atrium is illuminated, thereby creating a more intimate setting.
FLEXIBLE FLOORS – In the New University Building, a special flooring system has been applied (Slimline floors). This is a hollow flooring system where all installations (electricity, ventilation, heating) are integrated within a structure so thin that an additional floor could be added within the prescribed building height. A system of floor covers provides access to the installations everywhere, making it possible to adapt the installations and layout of each floor to accommodate various activities.
FUTURE PROOF – The New University Building is sustainable: energy efficient, fitted with a green roof, and finished in natural materials such as bamboo and natural stone. Parts of the building separately accessible so that they may function independently and be rented to outside parties. A three-level car park beneath the building extends under the adjoining site so that, if demand for space grows, a second building can be built on that site. The New University Building has a BREEAM Excellent certificate for sustainability.