Press release

Building M prepares the life sciences campus of the University of Antwerp for the future

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Siska Claessens
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Building M prepares the life sciences campus of the University of Antwerp for the future

Building M – a follow-on project from Building O – has just opened on the Drie Eiken campus in Wilrijk. Designed by META Architecture Bureau and Storimans Wijffels Architects in collaboration with Tractebel, the building contains classrooms and a research centre for the rehabilitation sciences programme. META had previously realized Building O on the campus, which is officially known as the Andries Kinsbergen building: a floating volume in perforated gold-coloured aluminium plates.

Unity and duality in character and attitude

Building M lies at the heart of the Drie Eiken campus on a sloping site to the south of Building O. These two buildings, together with the interconnecting square, mark the core of the campus. With its partially sunken ground floor that incorporates extensive bicycle parking, Building M forms the counterpoint of Building O, the latter of which is semi-elevated by a pedestal.

Buildings O and M are autonomous entities. Buildings that dictate and dominate. But they are also buildings that communicate, both with each other and with the surroundings. Together, they reflect unity and duality in character and attitude.

“With the launch of these two buildings, we have realized an important step in our ‘Operation Outer Campus’ plan. We can now justifiably call the Drie Eiken site our life sciences campus, thereby ensuring that our university is well equipped for the challenges of the future.”
[ Alain Verschoren, Honorary Rector, University of Antwerp ]

Readability with a double and symmetrically-mirrored entrance hall

Occupying three of the upper floors, the lecture and practice rooms are organised around a circulation loop with a central void. Double, mutually equivalent and symmetrically-mirrored entrance halls and a clear layout contribute to the readability of the volume. The void enables natural zenithal light to penetrate to the core of the building while the translucent covering accentuates the two entrance areas.

Vertical strips of glass and concave concrete columns

The vertical strips of glass alternate with concave concrete columns to create rhythm within the façade. At the top and bottom, these are finished with an architrave of steel H-profiles. The deep reveals and narrow windows generate enough shade to prevent overheating while also protecting the privacy of the users.

West 8 continues to work on the original landscape structure

The West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture office from Rotterdam assisted META with the implantation and environmental planning.

The construction of the new auditorium building strengthens the character of the university campus, not only through architectural expression, but also through its dialogue with the pre-existing and highly-prized morphological and landscape features, originally designed by Wirtz International Landscape Architects.

The public meeting space is formed by the façades of Buildings M and O, the extant trees and the paved perimeter. This boundary is sharply delineated and articulated along the lawn, but is kept ragged with grassy links to the surrounding area.

Implantation and context

The Drie Eiken campus is located at the Fort VI-site in Wilrijk. Various interventions have formed the built and undeveloped landscape into the image we know today. The different faculties and their support facilities are dispersed throughout the area. The location of the new auditoriums is strategically situated between the faculties and the cafeteria.

Structural work is finishing work

The ‘structural work is finishing work’ principle, an important set of rules that typifies META’s approach, ensures the most economical and limited use of materials. The robust structural carcass increases building’s longevity as well as its resistance to intensive use by students.

“The robust structural basis increases the longevity of Building M and makes it resistant to intensive use by students.”
[ Niklaas Deboutte, META architectuurbureau ]

Designed flexibility

The design is such that the function and interior layout of Building M can be easily customized in the future. For example, classrooms can be adapted to suit changing needs with only the smallest of interventions. The walls that divide the classrooms are easily removable and the floor finishing extends beneath the partition walls. This designed flexibility is crucial to ensuring the building’s long-term functionality.

"The walls that divide the classrooms are easily removable and the floor finishing extends beneath all of the partition walls. Easy adaptability is crucial to ensuring the building’s long-term functionality."
[ Eric Soors, META architectuurbureau ]

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