The project has in September 2020 come to completion after eight years of planning and construction. In 2012 the office of SADAR + VUGA in collaboration with LENS°ASS Architecten won the invited competition Vlaams Bauwmeester Open Call 21. The competition called for the design of three new buildings on campus, which would not only raise the quality of the space, but also define the development of the complex for years to come.
Northern and southern gate to the campus
Our proposal for the two objects, which are located on the far ends of the Ghent Schoonmeersen university campus, was based on the preposition, that the northern and southern entrances to the campus need to each have their own character and that the connection between them has to be more spatial and experimental than formalistic or stylistic. In order to follow the continuing evolution of the campus’ masterplan, the two buildings needed to unveil and represent a clear concept of it.
With this in mind we suggested two monolithic volumes:
– A raised reflective volume for the extension of the Sports Hall as the new northern gate of the campus
– A permeable rectangular volume for the new building of the Faculty for the Study of Social Sciences as the southern gate of the campus
Both buildings as social epicentres have at the same time become a space of interaction between the campus and the city of Ghent. They are functioning as an open space transition between the residential city scape and the future green axis of the campus.
New building of the Faculty for the Study of Social Sciences (Building T)
In 2012 the office of SADAR + VUGA in collaboration with LENS°ASS Architecten won the invited competition Vlaams Bauwmeester Open Call 21. The competition called for the design of three new buildings on campus, which would not only raise the quality of the space, but also define the development of the complex for years to come.
Located on the edge of the campus as the counterpoint to the Sports Hall, the new home of the Faculty for the study of Social Studies is an attempt to redefine the existing typology of school buildings everywhere – by combining the communication and socialization spaces into one large central area the building becomes a highly efficient common space.
Moved back from the main street (Voskenslaan), it creates an open space at the junction of the city with the campus and leaves room for the planned green axis of the area. The chosen design of the faculty as a volume and not a traditional tract, at this level already offers a smaller area of the façade due to the uniform shape and at the same time increases the communication space in the building, building volume and spaciousness. As a replacement for the outer courtyard, in this case an inner atrium appears.
The faculty is therefore designed as a new educational environment. The dynamics of the four alternately one or two-story high floors as an open meeting space, which are vertically intersected by atrium openings that establish vertical communication and ensure lighting, all stimulate activities on all level through visual contact. The central axis of the public space ends on both shorter sides of the building and thus visually and physically connects interior with the exterior. They form a sequential but homogenous public space of the faculty. The path that connects the levels and as such also exhibition, work and study spaces, does not limit the public space to ground floor only, but leads throughout the whole building. This pathway is a presentation of activities specter of the building.
Spaciousness, connectivity and openness enable and stimulate not only the development of the building, but also that of the users and the processes that occupy the building. The design is flexible and multi-layered. In the current social situation, it assumes the role of an epidemic environment, where it simultaneously allows and transmits distant and limited interaction. The lecture halls are located next to the outer envelope of the building, which is layered. Evacuation routes lead from the classrooms and administration to the steel walkways along the termically insulated façade of the building. The last, connecting layer consists of a system of fiberglass lamellar brisoles that dematerialise the volume and represent the permeable shading membrane of the building, while giving the building a distinctive appearance. The arch in the lamella system is a disturbance in the façade rhythm indicating the entrance to the building.
With its appearance, the building acquires its own identity and contributes to the recognisability of the planned campus arrangement. Its social, visual and spatial permeability and hybridization between public and educational character are supported by the individual character of the building. The array of atriums and the opening of the façade with variable lighting ensure the migration of users and processes across the building, which becomes an ever-changing structure.
Extension of the Campus Sports Hall
The new extension of the campus sports hall marks the northern entrance to campus.
Considering the existing conditions, the new building’s structural and programmatical core – entrance hall and fitness centre – is based along the northern wall of the existing sports hall. Its placement makes it a mediator between the campus Schoonmeersen and the city of Ghent.
Its raised reflective volume is lifted from the ground on a cantilever, exposing the glazed ground floor and its athletic occupants to the surroundings. Once inside the building, the visitor is directed upstairs and onto a raised viewing platform which encircles and overlooks the action on the lower court.
The exterior of the building is deliberately designed as an abstract volume, which allows it to attach and coexist with the existing sports hall. A prudent decision in positioning walkways of the campus to flow throughout the sports hall program resulted in a public promenade inside of the sports hall, which is inviting and intriguing for the outside visitor. On the city side concave and on the campus side convex façade is, besides the positioning and its openings, a fairly responsive component to the building.
The visual connection between the interior and exterior was ensured by raising the volume northside, which opens up a glass strip. The interior sports area is thus visible to the city, making the building an extension of the urban space.
The monolithic volume is simple, compact, almost abstract, but nonetheless not neutral. Its half-reflective convex-concave surface reflects the immediate surroundings in a blurred fashion and the movements distorted. Reflections of the bypassing trains, cars, pedestrians, and athletes – along with the sports activities in the hall – are constantly creating a new image of the building.