The campus of the Dutch technical university of Eindhoven is located close to the railway station of the city. Most students arrive by public transport and walk or bike to the campus, where a large modernistic building stands out. One day the Main-building of this University was designed as heart of the campus. It used to be a place where students met and where public functions were accommodated. The high-rise was dedicated to fast growing faculties which would ultimately leave for an own building. This implied a universal use of space and a flexible structure. Therefore the concrete structure of the building was designed as an extremely rigid grid made from standard elements.
Basically the Main-building was designed for radical changes in the future. Now, almost 50 years later it is time to give the building a new purpose to prove the flexibility it was always supposed to have.
Just west of the Main-building the ‘Auditorium’ can be found. It is the place where students follow lectures or enjoy their meal. Just east of the Main-building a new library was recently build. This building offers common working space and is popular among students. The question arises which role the former Main-building could get between those two important and dominant buildings on the campus. Moreover the Technical University has the goal to transform the modernistic icon of the campus into a sustainable and representative faculty building.
Every day hundreds of students move from the new library to the Auditorium through the existing structure of bridges on the first floor level. While doing this they cross the low-rise of the Main-building. This offers a unique chance to create a trilogy as the heart of the campus. The three low-rise buildings could operate all together because of their public character. This proposal suggests a transformation which reflects the original ideas from the sixties. An open field with cylindrical shaped columns pops up as a transparent and spatial working landscape on both sides of the huge concrete table structure. Thanks to (partly) natural ventilation and daylight domes on the roof it is possible to create a pleasant and divers working environment.
The high-rise will belong to the faculties of Industrial design and Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences. In this way the high-rise and low-rise of the Main-building can function autonomously which makes unnecessary an eventual expensive breakthrough through the old concrete table-structure.
A part of this project was dedicated to a theoretical research about the relationship between the addition of high-tech sustainable equipment and the strive of architects for classic beauty in, for instance: rhythm, proportion, symmetry, texture or shape. Beauty was already described as one of the main tasks of the architect by Vitruvius before the christian era, and ever since the discussion about beauty has been important in the architectural debate. The ideas about beauty, tectonics and architecture in general have always been supported by technological development. Inventions like cast iron, insulation, the elevator or reinforced concrete changed the architectural language for good and led to new definitions of beauty. For instance definitions like transparency and slenderness got a stronger position in the architectural debate after the invention of the steel skeleton and float glass.
In this case the addition of solar panels, ventilation ducts, louvres or double façade constructions to create a sustainable building puts pressure on definitions of beauty like transparency, slenderness, symmetry or rhythm. It was important to research the possibilities to combine and design sustainable equipment in order to design a transparent and delicate facade which fits the ideas of the modernists. It resulted in a proposal which combined a flexible climate screen, openable solar panels and a light-shelve which guides the wind force on the facade to the main-structure of the building. In this way it was possible to reduce the size of the aluminium profiles of the curtain facade. Moreover this led to a slender structure which represents the dreams of the modernists: the creation of fragile and transparent curtain facades.