UNStudio completes Echo


In light of ever-increasing student numbers, combined with the need for more education space, the new inter-faculty building for TU Delft is designed to meet the leading Dutch university’s need for flexible extra teaching space – now and in the future.

• Energy-generating building: Echo will harvest more energy than it uses during operation
• Interfaculty building: wide variety of adaptable teaching and study spaces for maximum flexibility in scheduling
• Health-focused: Echo is designed to promote physical, psychological and social health
• Transcends current learning environments: a model for new ways of learning and for future campus buildings

Echo is an energy-generating interfaculty building that offers a wide variety of teaching rooms to cater for the diversity of teaching methods and study styles at the university. As the most sustainable building at the TU Delft, Echo is contributing to the university’s ambitions to operate a fully sustainable campus by 2030. For Echo, UNStudio, in collaboration with Arup and BBN, created a an energy-generating building in which adaptability and the wellbeing of the user are central.

Ben van Berkel: “Unlike traditional campuses that operate in silos, the future campus needs to be programmed with agile spaces that invite students and faculty to learn, collaborate and co-create. As student numbers continue to grow, educational buildings need to be extremely flexible, to operate through a model based on shared interfaculty use that can promote a more generalist education.”

A healthy campus building – for people and planet
1200 solar panels, smart installations, good insulation and a heat and cold storage system ensure that Echo will be able to provide more energy than it requires for its daily operations. 90% of the furniture used in the building has also been reused. Transparency was essential to the design of Echo. It not only ensures maximum daylight inside the building , it also creates a visual connection to the wider campus and to surrounding nature.

As such, a closed-in, ‘institutional’ experience for the users is avoided. While the open and public character of the building connects the two sides of the campus and provides a bright, uplifting and welcoming environment for faculty and students alike. However, to avoid heat gain, it is also essential to prevent excess sunlight penetration. Overheating of the building is prevented by a combination of sun protection and the low solar penetration factor of the glass.

The deep horizontal aluminum awnings keep out excess solar heat. These canopies are interconnected by cables along which climbing plants form a subtle green facade that filters daylight. To ensure clean air in the building, a plenum floor is installed above hollow-core slabs. Here fresh air is pumped up from the floor, rather than down from above, thus avoiding circulation around the room. The vents for this system, along with the computer floor installation, can easily be relocated, should the layouts of the rooms change in the future.

The building has been designed as much as possible according to principles of circularity. Using large portal constructions with large grid sizes, the columns run along the edge of the building, creating column-free spaces with large spans. The steel trusses have standard sizes and can be dismantled so that they can be reused elsewhere after the lifespan of the building. The hollow-core slabs can also be reused in the future.

A building that stimulates movement and collaboration
The design supports the contemporary culture of ‘Everything Anywhere’, where the in-between spaces are also of great importance and physical movement is stimulated. Echo therefore also provides space for unstructured time: a variety of platforms for reflection, inspiration and communication. At specific positions, bamboo ribs extend along the ceiling, forming an integral part of the design.

The crafted look and feel of the bamboo is extended around the central staircase, that in one gesture joins the study and cooperation spaces into one connected world of learning, collaboration and connection. This centrally positioned ‘grand stair’ facilitates and promotes physical movement through the building and thus contributes to the health of students, researchers and teachers alike. A future-proof campus is an active campus. That is why Echo not only connects with the surrounding public space, it also defines it.

The adjacent square continues through turning the ground floor of Echo into a covered public square and a public connector. Two sculptural volumes (the large 700 person lecture hall and the debate space), direct the flow of people across this covered square. The diagonal orientation of these volumes simultaneously defines two large transparent corners, one housing a restaurant with terrace opposite the D:Dreamhall, and the other a large study landscape.

Future-proof: a wide variety of flexible teaching rooms
The 8,844 m2 Echo building provides space for lectures and tutorials, group work, project-based teaching, debates and self-study for around 1,700 students by way of the lecture rooms, classrooms and a variety of study spaces. Echo houses a total of seven teaching rooms, most with a flexible layout. The largest lecture room on the ground floor, which can accommodate 700 people, can be divided into three separate rooms in 15 minutes.

This enables multiple lectures or events to take place simultaneously and enables maximum programming of the space. A similar movable wall system is used in the mixed didactic space on the first level, so that this can be divided into two classrooms of 144 places each when required. The more than 300 study spaces throughout the building can be used for group work and self-study. The various teaching rooms have been designed based on the current and future needs of the lecturers and students.

In Echo, the focus is on medium-sized and large teaching rooms, accommodating between 150 and 700 people. In addition there are four level rooms for project-based teaching, each accommodating almost 70 people. A modular wall system has been used in the office spaces on the second floor, allowing for future changes to the layout. Should there be demand for functional change in the future, these office spaces can be turned into didactic spaces with minimum interruption. Source by UNStudio.

  • Location: Delft, Netherlands
  • Architect: UNStudio
  • Project Team: Ben van Berkel, Arjan Dingsté with Marianthi Tatari, Jaap-Willem Kleijwegt, Ariane Stracke and Piotr Kluszczynski, Thys Schreij, Mitchel Verkuijlen, Bogdan Chipara, Krishna Duddumpudi, Fabio Negozio, Vladislava Parfjonova, Marian Mihaescu, Ajay Saini, Ryan Henriksen, Shangzi Tu, Xinyu Wang
  • Structural Engineer, MEP and Building Physics: Arup
  • Building Cost Consultant: BBN
  • Contractor: BAM Bouw en Techniek
  • Project Management and Construction Management: Stevens van Dijck
  • Bamboo: Moso
  • Structural glazing: OCTATUBE
  • Yaer: 2022
  • Photographs: Evabloem, Hufton+Crow, Courtesy of UNStudio