Iconic Identity

July 1, 2008
Nicholas Hare Architects recently completed the Collège Doctoral Européen des Universités de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. 

The brief for the invitational design competition won in 2001 called for a striking building with a strong sense of identity. Not only does the college boast a prominent location along a main car and tram route into the city, but the college previously did not have its own building. As a result, the design's distinct form is very symbolic and necessarily iconic.

Housing 102 student ‘studios' as well as large lecture rooms, seminar rooms, and administrative areas, a caretaker's house and an interior garden, the building's most recognizable feature is its large, sloped, copper-clad roof, which covers a seven-storey atrium. The form of the building evolved partly from the planning restrictions; the curved roof follows the angle established by the neighbour's rights of light. It also has water-filled solar panels and internally the vault is lined and the steel structure concealed for acoustic absorption.

The primary reinforced in-situ concrete frame of the main block is designed to take the seismic loads since Strasbourg is located in a seismic zone. This structure then supports the large curved steel beams that support the roof. The solid façades were constructed using pre-fabricated hollow concrete wall panels that were filled in-situ with mass concrete.

The overall composition creates contrasts between solid and transparent elements. For example, full-height, sliding louver panels in the student rooms give the west façade changing patterns. The interior space also adheres to a spatial hierarchy: student room, common room, unifying space with an interior garden. Student rooms are accessed via balconies that overlook the main space while fully glazed double height common rooms provide fantastic views over the adjacent botanical garden.

Nicholas Hare Architects has built a unique structure, previously a car park, that both connects to its surroundings and provides a striking identity for the college of European doctoral students.

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