The campus of the University of Utrecht, de Uithof is developing from a mono-functional non-place into something that might be called a City: a rich amalgam of urban ‘programs’ and functions. The urban plan by OMA consists of a compact clustering of University related buildings: intensifying specific areas into a more urban condition and at the same time reinforcing the intrinsic qualities of the existing landscape.
Islands in the stream
The tool used to prevent the scattering of urban stuff over the entire area - to enhance City and Landscape at the same time- is the strong site boundary that is based on the existing buildings. All new substance should develop within these perimeters.
It’s a Bar
Since restrictions for housing on the campus recently where abolished and student apartments became imaginable here, nightlife became an issue as well: a local bar was needed. The Café should serve as the informal center of the campus; a relaxed meeting place for professors, researchers and students. The crossing of Heidelberglaan (the main access road to the campus) and Genevelaan seemed to be the best site for this enterprise, close to relatively public buildings like the Educatorium and the new Library and right under the Van Unnik Building, the massif 80 meters high ‘logo’ for the University as a whole.
The Van Unnik Building is constructed with the so-called Jack Block System: a surreal construction method that starts building the top floor on ground level, then jacking it up to construct the next floor, again on the zero level. The last act is lifting all 21 stories to construct the first floor: a bizarre gravity-defying operation that sends Baron Von Münchhausen back to college.
The Uithof café is a 15 x 15 meter extension of the existing bookstore. The remarkable flatness of that construction is extended with the oversized roof of the new bar. The complex looks ‘crushed’ by the Van Unnik. Since the floor height of the existing shop is not appropriate for a Grand Café the Bar is sunken in the ground: you enter on top of the counter and walk-in over the bar. The lowered position allows for a new perspective on the public square. Like the American Bar by Adolf Loos it attempts to combine intimacy with an extensive view.
The ‘orange pool’ brings together a sunken terrace, a mini amphitheatre and the access for the disabled: a cool mixture of people hanging out with drinks, skaters and people in wheelchairs.
The XL roof of the café provides the ultimate location for a basketball court. The ‘publicity’ of its position creates the ultimate platform for the display of superior skill: show off, shoot hoop. Since the structure is so flat there’s still a direct relation to the ground. From the elevated walkway system that connects most buildings on the Uithof the new ground level looks ‘natural’. The middle circle of the court is made out of glass, establishing a visual relation between Basket and Bar.
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