Powerhouse Company and De Zwarte Hond teamed up to complete this new student centre for Erasmus University in Rotterdam, which features a transparent exterior and a curving oak interior (+ movie).
Described by the Dutch studios as having an "egg-in-a-box arrangement", the 1,800-square-metre student pavilion is intended to become the new social heart of the university campus, located to the east of the city centre.
One of the main aims of the project was to create a bright and welcoming space for staff and students, so Powerhouse Company and De Zwarte Hond designed the building to be as open as possible – with the most public activities concentrated around the perimeter.
This idea resulted in a building with two layers. Cafe and study areas sit directly behind the transparent facade, while storage areas and service spaces are located behind a curving wall of timber, which also encloses a 200-seat events space.
The foyer is positioned on the south facade, where it fronts a public plaza. A study area sits beside the north-east wall to limit glare on computer screens, while the cafe runs along the western edge to benefit from evening sun.
"This 'egg in a box' arrangement preserves the transparency of the exterior through its floor-to-ceiling glazing," said the architects, who won a competition to design the building in 2010.
"It allows the pavilion to better connect with its surroundings as well as to encourage passersby to flow in from all elevations."
The building is just two storeys high, which the architects hope will offer "a welcome break among the tall Brutalist buildings of the university's suburban campus".
The stepped landscape of the site allowed both levels to meet the ground, and the curving steps of an adjacent pathway continue inside the building, forming the main internal staircase.
The curving red-oak wall creates a semi-barrel-vaulted ceiling above the various social spaces. The kitchen, toilets and technical spaces are hidden away behind it, organised around a central corridor.
"This lath structure makes an eye-catching feature and softens the materiality of the internal spaces," said Powerhouse Company, whose current projects include a triangular railway station and a 100-metre-tall broadcast and observation tower.
The multi-purpose events space occupies the entire first floor, and can be used as a lecture theatre, an auditorium or as a film screening room.
Mechanical louvres form a large semi-circle on the four facades and can be adjusted to act as a sunscreen, relative to the sun's position in the sky.
Large hatches in the roof open automatically to allow air to circulate, while a ground-sourced heat pump keeps the building warm in winter.
The Erasmus University student pavilion forms part of a wider masterplan for the campus by Danish landscape firm Juurlink + Geluk and Studio Sputnik. Other new additions will include a canteen, and underground car park and new landscaping.
Partners in charge: Nanne de Ru, Willem Hein Schenk
Team: Nanne de Ru, Willem Hein Schenk (dZH), Stefan Prins, Sander Apperlo, Sybren Woudstra, Anja Lübke (dZH), Anne Larsen, Sijmen de Goede (dZH), Søren Harder Nielsen
Structural engineer: Pieters Bouwtechniek
Installation advisor: moBius Consult
Contractor: Lokhorst Bouw
Interior contractor: Punt Interieurbouw
Masterplan campus: Juurlink+Geluk in collaboration with Studio Sputnik