Two storey multi-family houses integrated in the landscape, a series of public buildings and spaces linked by a green boulevard, one of the most relevant universities of the country. This is Ås - just a 15 minutes train journey away from Oslo - the University town of the Oslo competitive region.
Ås has doubled its population in the last thirty years, as a result of the expansive growth of Osloand the raising of the University of Life Science.
Despite its increased size, Ås has always maintained its typical feature of settlement on the edge between countryside and urbanity, ensuring a contemporary lifestyle in touch with nature. This has been possible thanks to the program adopted, based on two strategic steps: a urban one, intended to put in a system the poles of Ås, and a residential one, a new settlement model defined by a new house typology.
As for the urban program, the village developed along a west-east axis: the Green Boulevard. Itconnected the university campus with the town centre and the railway station, i.e. the regional network. A series of different events created along this path finally encouraged meeting between the university and the village community, stimulating the growth of the urban life. At the same time, the new house typology had been tested for the first time in a small site closed to the town centre. Later, as Ås expanded along the north-south direction alongside the railway, the new typology had been adopted also in the new developments.
The story of Ås demonstrates how in just two moves a quiet village in the countryside can be turned into a contemporary university town. It can indeed be accounted as a remarkable model for the sustainable growth of human settlements.
The better answer to the growth of the Oslo region is a multicore development. This means that the development has to be concentrated in cities and towns, preserving the green corridors between them. Connected by an efficient railway and public
transport system, every town or city is dedicated to a specific aspect. Ås, for instance, will become the University town, because of the importance of University of Life Science (UMB), which is set to become one of the most relevant educational institutions in Norway.
As of today, university life is mostly focused around the campus, its athletic institutions and the Pentagon, where most of thestudents live, isolated from the town community. The big transformation that Ås is facing is a great opportunity to change this condition of isolation: at the urban scale, the aim of the project is to connect the university with the town centre, which will become the third node of the university life. 
By the creation of a new axis, the university will be also connected to the train station, i.e. to the regional network: it will be easy for both the commuters from the train station and the citizens from the town centre to reach the university campus by foot or bike.
Since the project site is set to become the new town centre, not only the connection to the university, but to the other parts of Ås too - both the existing and the future ones - has to be guaranteed. 
As the condition of boundary between countryside and urbanity is one of the best qualities of living in Ås, the new axis is a green boulevard that links the surrounding nature to the urban area and creates a strong connection with the landscape. 
The Green Boulevard serves as a link between public spaces, several cultural institutions and other public buildings. Furthermore, in order to encourage meeting and sharing between the university community and the town, a series of several urban scenes have been created along the path. These urban scenes are places where the students, the inhabitants and the commuters can rest, study, play, meet each other: the university life overlaps and merges with the urban life, coexisting.
The starting point of the Green Boulevard is a new piazza for Ås which establishes a meaningful connection between the project site, the centrally located cultural institutions and Rådhusplassen. The creation of this square represents an important step to improve the town pedestrian life and make it both pleasant and effective.
On the piazza, two new buildings will boost the urban life: the Åsheim and the Odd Tandberg Museum. The ground floor of Åsheim will be converted in a recreation
centre, providing a place for leisure and fun. The objective is to make it become a hang-out for the people of Ås and the students of the university.
The Odd Tandberg Museum is a three-storey high building, with an outdoor exhibition space on the roof. The building has commercial spaces on its ground floor. The Tandberg estate is preserved and become part of the
The existing paths for pedestrians and cyclists in the south and the west are maintained and linked to the Green Boulevard system as strategic ways to connect the project site to the village. The path on the west, that goes above the County Road, will link the town centre and the future developments in the north.
From Rådhusplassen and Raveien you can reach three parking lots, which serve the new town centre. Furthermore, the creation of the Green Boulevard gives the opportunity to use a big parking lot at the other end of the axis, easily reachable by foot or bike.
By the redesign of the intersection between Raveien, Moerveien and Rådhusplassen and closing Moerveien to car traffic, the project site, the commercial activities in Moerveien and Rådhusplassen, as well as the cultural institutions, are linked
together by a unique public space.
The 2013 Europan Competition gives a chance to investigate the meaning of sustainable development in relation Ås.
Taking the current strong link between living and landscape as the starting point of the proposal, a new house typology has been designed to meet the need of increasing the density of the future residential settlements, while preserving the rural village feel of Ås.
Re-thinking the relationship between the dwelling and its garden, the ordinary terraced house typology has been re-invented: the garden - usually adjacent to the building and related to the outside scenario - has been shifted under the construction. As a consequence, a new dual type relationship between households
and nature has been established: an introvert one in the garden, a stepped green courtyard dug in the ground protected from the outside, and an extroverted one in the building, the cantilever volumes of which open up to the surrounding landscape.
The expected growth of Ås requires a more densified urban fabric. Instead of the usually adopted high rise building solution - efficient in more urbanised context but unable to be integrated in the typical Ås rural village dimension and landscape - the new typology gives a sustainable answer to this issue. Indeed, it has been designed as a two-storey multifamily house, consisting of three simple house-shaped slabs placed along three different axes arranged around a central core.
The introvert/extrovert house has been conceived as a flexible model, in order to adjust to the possible future demands. As a multifamily complex, it offers three types of dwelling: two different simplex flat, one for a couple and the other one for a family, and a duplex flat. As a student housing, two slabs are devoted to the students’ single rooms, each one with private bathroom. Common spaces and facilities are placed in the third one.
The student housing can easily be converted in offices: in every slab an open space can be obtained keeping the services block and demolishing the internal walls.
The connection between building and nature is the base principle not just at the housing unit scale, but at the unit aggregation scale as well. The aggregated network - generated by linking together the head of a unit’s slab to the following one - is
conceived as part of the surrounding landscape: the houses slabs lie on the woodland, perfectly integrated with the tree rows.
A continuous pattern of circles designs and structures the ground under or around the houses, defining different spatial conditions: flat circles host public spaces, extruded circles become small hills from which enjoying the surrounding woodland, the circles dug in the ground are comfortable house courtyards.
This new planned landscape layer overlaps the existing one: the desired merger between nature and human settlement has been realised.
3 users love this project