A Circular Cube
Powerhouse Company has completed its design for the Netherlands’ first mass timber university building. The new energy-neutral building for Tilburg University sits on a small footprint of 33 x 33 meters, and contains 14 lecture rooms, selfstudy areas and a foyer.
Set within a wooded landscape, the lecture hall’s timeless form echoes the existing Modernist structures on the campus. “Together with our client, we upped our ambition during the design process resulting in a carbon neutral, completely circular, and BREEAM Outstanding design,” says Janneke van der Velden, Associate Architect at Powerhouse Company.
Triumph in Timber
With its predominantly cross-laminated timber structure, the lecture hall is a fully circular pioneer in academic architecture. Tackling significant design challenges, the wooden rib floors span a groundbreaking 9 meters, while meeting the complex demands required by an educational building. The dry construction system employs 4.6 kilometers of timber beams that are demountable for future reuse.
Additionally, hanging the limestone façade panels, rather than gluing them, allows the stone to be recycled too. “Our details look simple and self-evident, but pioneering the technical junctions in collaboration with different disciplines was a challenge. This untrodden road was inspiring and taught us a lot,” says Romano van den Dool, BIM Engineer at Powerhouse Company.
A New Cube in a Modernist Family
The new lecture hall’s design is inspired by the first structure on the campus: Jos. Bedaux’s 1962 Cobbenhagen building, now a listed monument. Bedaux reflected the university’s Catholic roots with a design that gives a Modernist twist to monastic architecture.
Powerhouse Company’s design adapts Bedaux’s monumental simplicity with a limestone facade, rhythmic window placement and a close relationship between the interior spaces and the surrounding nature. The result is a building that, with its mellow stone facade and rootedness in the woodland setting, appears as though it has always been there.
A Contemplative Calm
Inside, as with the Cobbenhagen building, the fixtures and furniture are intrinsic parts of the design. A natural palette is used throughout – wood, stone, and plaster – from the lofty sculptural space of the lecture hall, to intimate window niches.
Besides the exposed structural timber, simple wooden tables, benches, and cruciform reading lamps exude a sense of serenity and calm. Expansive windows allow natural light to flood the space while playfully capturing a range of views, some unexpected – the sky, a single tree, or people walking to the campus.
Four Faces for a Campus Hub
We looked at the various characteristics of the site surrounding our building – forest, parkland, accommodation, and the main route to the train station serving the campus – and designed four facades responding to these different features. All four sides of the building connect via footpaths, views and sightlines to different parts of the site: Each side has different detailing and window distribution reflecting its orientation.
The building will be an addition to Powerhouse Company’s growing educational portfolio, including its pavilion for Erasmus University Rotterdam (with De Zwarte Hond) and its Jakoba Mulderhuis in Amsterdam (with Marc Koehler Architects and Architecten Cie), the new gateway to the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences campus, currently under construction. Source by Powerhouse Company.
- Location: Tilburg, The Netherlands
- Architect: Powerhouse Company
- Leading Partner: Stefan Prins
- Project leader: Janneke van der Velden
- Project team: Iván Guerrero Jimenez, Antónia Pohanková, Romano van den Dool, Martijn Ravia, Michiel Bosch, Sanja Kralj, Robert Cuijpers, Bjørn Andreassen, Erwin van Strien, Gert Ververs, Rafael Zarza García, Giovanni Andrea Coni, Jugoslav Stankin
- Landscape architect: EDM Tuin en Landschap
- Urban planning: Studio Hartzema
- Installation’s advisor: Royal Haskoning DHV
- Building physics advisor: Royal Haskoning DHV
- Contractor: Koninklijke BAM Groep
- Constructor: BREED Integrated Design
- Geotechnical advisor: Inpijn Blokpoel
- Sustainability advisor: Rienks Bouwmanagement
- Mobility advisor: Royal Haskoning DHV
- Financial advisor: Multibouwadvies
- Client: Tilburg University
- Size: 5 000 m2
- Year: 2021
- Images: Courtesy of Powerhouse Company