The architecture of Atlas combines optimal reuse with state-of-the-art materials and smart technology. The former main building of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU Eindhoven) was designed by S. J. van Embden and had one of the first curtain walls in the Netherlands. At project inception, the client assumed the building would be completely stripped and that the plinth would remain largely unaltered. However, by preserving the steel structure of the façade, reusing the intermediate floors and restoring the spaciousness of the lower levels, the design preserves the architectural quality of the original building allowing it to be experienced anew.
The red connector
The renovation reestablished the impressive spaciousness of the central hall—referred to by van Embden as ‘the cathedral’. The most striking addition to this hall, defined by an imposing structure of concrete columns and slabs, is the red staircase, which zigzags all the way to the top of the building. All central facilities, such as lecture rooms and study spaces, are grouped around this staircase and connecting the two faculties located opposite ends of the building.
Hi-tech curtain wall
A new curtain wall has been designed using the existing steel structure. This provides the insulation value of a brick cavity wall and preserves the transparency of the original façade. On cold winter nights, the building management system engages the reflective internal solar shading so that the building acquires an extra layer of insulation. On balmy summer nights, the system opens the windows, drawing fresh air through the building. Parallel opening windows preserve the appearance of the sleek façade, even when open, while creating optimal ventilation. Vertical fins attached to the mullions provide a safety barrier, highlight the internal organization with double-height spaces, and add a sense of dynamism and depth to the façade.
The building has a “Smart Energy-Saving Light” system (SEL), making it possible to control the lighting, solar shades and room temperature with a smartphone. The system was developed in collaboration with research groups at the university, who use the building as a lab to study issues such as the effects of light on seasonal affective disorder. This functionality turns Atlas into a worldwide example for sustainable renovation and innovation. Atlas received a BREEAM Outstanding certificate for sustainability, making it one of the most sustainable buildings in the world.