AP University College
The exceptional location requires an exceptional, even iconic building.
- Jaspers-Eyers Architects
- Dirk Vandekerkhove Landschapsarchitecten
The first notable aspect of the design is the impressive, cantilevered volume with its diamond-shaped, external load-bearing structure in concrete. Viewers who look beyond the monumental nature of the facade will see that the building’s best features are very subtle.
Three design gestures define the building.
The design first gesture involves limiting the height of the building and viewing the school as a ‘compact city campus’ nestled in the urban fabric. The building was designed not to be just another tower among many, but to align with the existing buildings along the Leien. The loss of surface area is compensated by an additional ‘underground’ level and the cantilevered volume along the Leien.
The compact city campus is both landscape and city. Like a real campus, the university college is open and accessible. The central, green patio can be seen from the street. This patio is the heart of the campus. A glass hallway – like a cloister gallery around a courtyard garden – offers access to the common areas, like the reception, the library and the auditoriums. Part of the patio has been lowered below ground level, ensuring that the extra ‘underground’ level receives sufficient natural daylight.
The second design gesture is the integration of the ‘park ramp’ – a public walking and cycle path – over, along and through the building. The school is both building and infrastructure. The park ramp brings the green park into the school. Although the next stretch has not yet been completed, the ramp will connect to a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, based on a design by Laurent Ney. The bridge will connect Park Spoor Noord to the Eilandje on the other side of the Leien. Unlike the patio, the park ramp is open to the public. It forms an elevated balcony from which passers-by can view both the quiet, private patio and the busy traffic. The lack of any direct connection between patio and park ramp creates a field of tension between public and private, between seeing and being seen, between distance and attraction.
The third design gesture is the monumental flight of stairs under the cantilevered volume. The covered, public outdoor flight of stairs not only gives the school a recognizable entrance, it is – like the park ramp – a generous gesture. The private school building gives public space to the city and its inhabitants. The building takes up room, but it also gives something back.
The flight of stairs is the high point of the project. This is where all the gestures converge. It is a busy location where the Leien, the cycle bridge, the park ramp and the school meet. It turns the building into a gateway to the city and to the park.