A place of Exchange, of Innovative Teaching and Learning and of Development The name evokes longing and although the name Oasis is chiefly a play on words, the architecture of the new medical library of the Heinrich Heine University and the University Clinic in Dusseldorf demonstrates clear similarities with a fertile spot in the desert. Not through its form but through its concept; the brief was to design a space for enthusiastic learning; a place of exchange, of innovative teaching and learning and of development. The initial letters of these concepts in German together form the word O.A.S.E. – oasis. In less than two and a half years of design and construction we managed to create a landmark on the campus of university in the North Rhine Westphalian capital. The new medical library is part of the 2030 Master Plan to reorganise the 14 hectare university campus in the Wersten district of the city.
Constant expansion of the university over the past few decades led to an extremely heterogeneous appearance. New identification points are required; a lighthouse project for innovative teaching and learning, for example.
New Points of Attraction and Identification
The Oasis is such a point of attraction; visible from a great distance, it is 38 m tall, has a very unusual façade structure and a gleaming white skin. It projects unequivocally out of its rather monotonous grey surroundings. The external appearance of the solid structure reflects the library’s specialist topic; it is the architectural expression of the capillary system. This idea is further reflected in the smooth, white façade. Organically shaped glass mosaic tiles linked by glass strips spread like a network over the slender cube and lend the structure its unmistakeable shape. This dynamic is reflected in the interior design through the flowing open spatial structure. Along with the obligatory library facilities such as the reading and lending areas, work and study rooms, a cafeteria and generous public and exhibition areas are arranged on the eight floors above ground level. The various library, study and learning rooms are stacked on top of one another and are accessed via a
cylindrical lift and staircase core. The service core is diagonally opposite as are the document lounges and the toilets.
Stacked Library Functions
The ground floor of the library has been designed as a double-height space with a suspended mezzanine floor. The café, the cafeteria counter and the large lecture theatre are directly connected to the entrance foyer that houses the information desk and the electronic library security gate. The mezzanine offers a conference space with a direct view onto the hustle and bustle of the café below through a glass wall. The specialist medical and dental library rooms along with study rooms of various sizes are organised on levels 1 to 4. Digital whiteboards in the study rooms permit the most up-to-date interactive communication and data exchange. A specially fitted out parent-child study room is reinforces the user-friendly aspects of the concept. Learning lounges are arranged freely in the central zones of each floor reflecting the easy transition between geometric and organic forms in keeping with our intention to make this a library to be experienced and not just used. All desks are equipped with WLAN and power sockets and half of these are additionally fitted with fixed LAN sockets.
The centrepiece of the library is on the fourth floor – the borrowing desk – we fulfilled the University’s request for a state of the art issue and return system with automatic sorting of returned books. Also on this floor are an e-learning room with 30 computer desks, another small cafeteria and offices for library staff. Whereas the lower floors are only accessible via the staircase and lifts, open internal stairways lead to the upper library floors where the bookshelves are laid out alternating with open-plan reading and working areas and separate group study rooms. In keeping with the concept as a whole, the areas become quieter and quieter as one moves upwards through the building and the atmosphere becomes ever more conducive to concentrated working. Level 7 is, like the ground floor, a double-height storey with a suspended mezzanine level providing further individual study areas and chill out zones. The uppermost floor of the Oasis is a roof terrace that affords students clear views of the entire university campus. The basement has been designed to house the technical functions including the cloakrooms and toilets for the exhibition areas on the ground floor.
Facade structure as Starting Point for the Interior Design
The interior design was conceived and realised together with the Silvia Pappa_UKW Innenarchitekten working group. The quality of the fittings reflects the architectural aspects of the spaces. The expressive cubature of the building, the free-flowing forms and fabric of the façade require a fitting response in the design of the interior. The extraordinary effect of the capillary-like glazing that defines the daylight penetration levels on each floor was the starting point for the interior design; the green, cylindrical core evocative of flowing space sets the tone for the interior atmosphere. The open-plan study and work zones follow the shape of the cores which is then repeated in the waves and amoeba-like forms of the custom-built furniture. The closed, rectangular group study rooms are arranged along the façade walls. A variety of contemporary materials and surfaces such as fair-faced concrete, epoxy resin coatings, various woods, glass and plastic surfaces contribute to a harmonious and inspirational atmosphere in which to study and work. The furniture in the enclosed study rooms varies from that of the open spaces in order to achieve a different working atmosphere; lockers, seating and information areas are incorporated into wall recesses; the rounded cores are painted in green, the angular spaces in shades of lavender, watery blues and greens; tabletops in white and magenta. This, our palette defines the individuality of each level.
Facade elements Calculated to the Millimetre
The construction of the “capillary” façade required close cooperation between the architects, engineers and manufacturers. Whereas the dimensions of the closed façade elements were dictated by the concrete structure, the radii of the window elements were defined by their geometry and tailor-made to precise dimensions specified to the millimetre and adjusted as necessary. The sealed window units were fitted with rear-ventilated glass-ceramic panelling over 18 mm mineral insulation, in line with current energy saving regulations. The flowing transition from open to closed surfaces produces an exciting exterior, the effects of which are accentuated by the contrasting colours of the façade materials – white-enamelled glass-ceramic and green-tinted solar-control glass. Internal fabric curtains provide relief from heat and glare in the summer months. Thermal activation units in the concrete ceiling draw excess heat away from the internal spaces and a central ventilation system in the roof distributes fresh air via the cores and through hollow flooring on each level. Induction grills in front of the windows provide tempered fresh air to each room. Ventilation is provided by crossflow ducts in the central zones which draw the used air out of the room and away through the ventilation shaft in the central service core.
Strong Identity and Recognisability
The brief called for a “beacon of inspirational teaching and learning for the Medical Faculty”; from April 2009 to July 2011 we worked to provide this with our design for this highly sophisticated specialist library. The “capillary system” chosen by the architects as the leitmotif of this project resulted in a living structure with a strong identity and recognisability – a building, every space, every corner, every detail of which will serve to inspire the students every single day
The new Oasis university library has been designed to accommodate 600 to 800 students per day. The test-phase commenced a few weeks ago and the official opening is set for October in time for the start of the 2011/2012 winter semester.
Architecture: HPP Architets, Volker Weuthen, Dusseldorf
Project Management: Christoph Ebert
Project Team: Myriam Hamdi, Stephan Heimann, Bärbel Walger,
Wolfgang Miazgowski, Anja Biechele
Interior design: Working Group Silvia Pappa / UKW Innenarchitekten
Structural Engineers: Bollinger + Grohmann Ingenieure, Frankfurt a. M.
Technical Engineers: Winter Ingenieure, Dusseldorf
Acoustic / Structural Physics: Peutz Consult, Dusseldorf
Landscape Architects: W. Prechler, Dusseldorf
Lighting Engineers: AG Licht, Bonn
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