In May 2010, after a six year planning and construction phase the Northern University of Applied Science Leuuwarden was opened in the Dutch county Friesland. Founded in 1987 the publicly operated university is visited by 10,000 students. The challenge was to renovate the existing building which was initially designed by the architect Abe Bonnema and to build an additional extension similar in size. The requirement was to use a design solution which integrated the old building with seamless transitions in to the newly constructed extension. Herman Hetzberger and his architectural office “Architectuurstudio HH” presented the idea of the new 20,500 m² building which embraces the existing construction. The former hallways were labyrinth like and now the two axis are accentuated which smoothly link the old with the new building complex. If required they can be opened to intersect at central areas. This structure creates spaces for communication, encounters and stays – a recurring theme of Hertzberger’s works.
The new build takes up various functions: seminar rooms, a new theatre, a library and a media centre with flexible working spaces. However, large and airy communal areas which become meeting places are the centre of attention. Newly developed spaces are flared, searching for the connection to the outdoors, sideways to the surrounding stretch of water as well as reaching upwards with generous openings facing the sky.
The building’s open design is supported by extensive glass facades in both external and internal areas. Through the interplay of both glazing levels, transparency and light-flooded rooms at the end of the building can be fully realized. Therefore, internal units, which are not placed at the external façade, such as the book shop or information point, become attractive spaces nonetheless. The Solarlux bi-folding door systems make a significant contribution and function as room dividers in the inner complex. The full height SL45 system creates an open working atmosphere, yet it can be closed if required to provide sectioned or secluded spaces.
Folding facades enable flexible room structures reaching 2.8m high and up to 14 metres wide so that a seamless transition connects the shop with the communal areas at the front. The shop windows and information appear inviting and are directly presented to the passer-by.
When opened the glass panels are compactly parked to one side providing a large shop uninterrupted entrance. For instance, a seven-panel glass folding-façade may comprise six folding elements and one revolving door. Latter may also serve as entrance door when the system is closed. Flush floor tracks enable a smooth operation of the system and a barrier free entrance to the room. In total, 43 panels were installed which also provided a key level of noise reduction at 35dB. The required specification for Solarlux, to create open spaces and seamless transitions, is strongly reflected in the structural realization of “Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden’s” concept. The successful implementation of the concept is also stressed by the achieved “European Design Award” in the category “Company Implementation” which was announced contemporaneously with the official opening.