The Roeterseiland Campus of the University of Amsterdam is situated on the Eastern edge of the old city. It is about to gain new buildings that are actually older buildings completely reinvented whilst breathing new life into an existing incomplete masterplan by Norbert Gawronski. My guides for the day on site were Davy Demmers, Deputy Director and Sanne Doelman, Project Manager from the Real Estate Development Department of the University of Amsterdam.
The main slab block left a low opening over the canal making it not particularly enticing for those passing underneath it. A four-floor, 40m section of the underside of the building across the canal has been removed and, as a show-stopper, a double-height catering space glazed on both sides inserted to give fantastic views across the city. Its floor is suspended on four rows of steel rods from a new exposed concrete box girder which also forms the ceiling. It takes Gawronski’s original scheme and enhances it quite dramatically. A new low bridge will also be added over the canal rejuvenating outside circulation and communal areas.
Inside, ease of wayfinding has been accomplished by strong use of colour for doors and cores denoting a particular department or faculty. As a result, signage and visual clutter will be minimised. This allied to consistent views from the exterior glazing meant that there is near constant visual reference for orientation.
I arrived at the campus by bicycle. The team have worked to massively reduce car parking and car access on campus. In the Netherlands there are no Building Regulations regarding bicycle parking. The team calculated how many of the 22,000 students using the Roeterseiland campus would be on site at any one time and arrived at the figure of 3,100 to be located under the building. To try and prevent bicycles continuing to be casually left around the building creating clutter, a new direct stairway is to link to the main reception, making the basement facility as convenient as possible.
The project is due to complete at the end of 2013, opening later in 2014. The constant theme throughout the tour was on creating a place for all who use the campus to enjoy and create a place where students want to be; to study, to socialise and ‘to daydream’, as Demmers put it. With wonderful detail, great surrounding spaces and commanding views of an exciting city on the doorstep, it will easily accommodate all these aspirations.