May 13th 2008 a fire destroyed the architecture faculty building at Delft University of Technology. Within days the faculty moved into tents and made plans for a temporary building. The abandoned headquarter building of the university was chosen, it was due to be transformed into luxury apartments but the crisis had put the plans on hold. Almost immediately Wytze Patijn, the dean of the faculty, commissioned a team of 5 architects starting the refurbishment of the former headquarter into a state of the art architecture faculty. September 2008 the first phase was completed and in May 2009 the overall project was completed.
Choosing 5 architects was both a conceptual and pragmatic choice. It would enhance speed and result in significant differences in the experience of the building, a quality dean Patyn thought to be essential for such a large structure.
Fokkema & Partners was chosen as they have been already involved in the refurbishment project of the monumental building.
Octacube is specialized in the fast construction of glass constructions and its principal Mick Eekhout is professor at Delft university.
MVRDV was commissioned to design a building inside the building for The Why Factory (T?F), the independent research centre it is leading in a joint venture together with Delft university.
Kossmann.dejong was chosen to design a number of public spaces and student work spaces inside the building.
The basic concept is an open studio building with an interior “Street” as connector of all spaces. At this street most of the public functions are located: bookshop, service point, repro service, the student union, a café and two interior plaza’s in covered court yards. The building was too small for the entire faculty so it had to be extended; two interior courts were covered to provide additional space. Fokkema & Partners designed the overall plan, the two courtyards being programmed as squares inside the faculty. Octacube detailed the façade and roof of the court yards in a steel and glass system providing maximum transparency and construction speed. In one of the courts an entresol level provides additional space. The other courtyard houses The Why Factory, a building in shape of a tribune, inside the structure two lecture halls and the institute’s offices are located, outside it is an auditorium used for all kinds of events. It is painted in bright orange to emphasize the independent status whilst its very shape engages all students to meet.
The building is conceived as an open studio work space and offers 468 workplaces for staff and 1520 open workplaces for students. The open character is in contrast to the secluded character of the building when it was the university headquarters in earlier times. The monumental character of the building is visible in the covered courtyards where the historical façade provides the interior walls. Furthermore the building is almost left untouched, walls have been painted white when necessary for lighting, in certain areas parts have been left in a state of decay and all energy went into the floor, furniture and services: Preservation in a non-gentrified way. In this way the building has moments of refinement and also elements that are rough and untouched.
The dark monumental headquarter building has been transformed by the design team in a very short time into a vibrant and accessible modern educational building with the character of a city: BK City. Even though it was initially planned to be used for 5 years Delft University is so pleased with the result that plans for a new building have been stopped. Delft University emphasizes that the re-use of the building is a strong message regarding the task architects in Europe face and how transformations add to a sustainable future.
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