Sport encourages friendship and solidarity and serves as an inspiration. Sport is healthy, relaxing, and above all, fun. This is evident in the sports college that Mecanoo architecten was commissioned to build by the council of Eindhoven and Fontys University of Applied Sciences on the Genneper Parken ‘sports estate’ in Eindhoven.
The 16,500 m² sports complex opened on Thursday 25 October 2012. The event was celebrated by many renowned Dutch sporting personalities, including recent Olympic medal winners Marleen Veldhuis, Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Marianne Vos. The state of the art complex accommodates educational facilities for 2,000 students, five sports halls, a climbing wall, a restaurant and an underground car park with 200 parking places.
Walking or jogging through the Genneper Parken you’ll immediately notice the new sports college. Sporting figures are incorporated in the dark brick walls – a swimmer, a footballer, a hockey player. Behind a completely glass facade of the ground floor you can see students and athletes actively engaged in sport against a background of brightly coloured walls with graphics of sporting icons. The crowning glory of the building is the fifteen-metre high climbing wall with an enormous window behind which you can see the climbers making their way up. As the project architect Ellen van der Wal from Mecanoo says: “This building breathes sport from every pore.”
The building is a crucial link in the development of Genneper Parken, the sports and recreational area, confirming Eindhoven as a Sports City. Several sports facilities have already been established in this southern part of the city, including the Pieter van den Hoogenband swimming stadium and the Centre for Top Sport and Education. With its sculptural appearance and lively facades, the Sports College is the new meeting place on the campus.
Van der Wal explains: “We wanted to create a social building. Everyone is familiar with the stereotypical image of the sports hall as a dull closed box, an association we wanted to avoid.” That’s why four of the five sports halls are up on the first floor, while the fifth hall is located at street level in the centre of the building. “This means that we could make the façade of the ground floor completely transparent, creating a very dynamic appearance for the park, and contributing to social safety in the evening.”
The strict demands which the Netherlands Olympic Committee imposes on sports accommodation were an extra complication for the design. For example, no daylight can enter the halls because of reflection. Nevertheless, the new building has a very light and spacious appearance. Van der Wal explains: “When you go in you look straight through the sports hall into the canteen, which offers views to the FC Eindhoven playing field. This is what we did throughout the building – with open areas, glass and viewing points. You can see sport everywhere.”
As the building is intended both for education and for top sports and amateur sports, the architect was also confronted with a logistical challenge. In the evenings and at weekends when sports clubs make use of the building, it had to be possible to screen off the educational function. This was challenging, but the many different spaces were successfully forged to create a harmonious whole. The sports college presents itself as a powerful entity with a single theme: sport is fun.
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